So I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on my friends list, taking the federal government and, particularly, the Bush administration to task for the wretched handling of the Katrina aftermath. I confess I don’t completely get it; if anyone can explain it to me, I’d be all ears.
Most of the complaints I’ve seen so far have been about the media posturing of the adminstration, rather than saying anything concrete about what they should have done differently. The only definite mistake I’ve seen pointed out so far was the appointment of a beaurocrat with no relevant experience to be head of FEMA.
Tens of thousands of people were left homeless, stranded, without food, water or medical help in New Orleans. But shouldn’t the fault for that be laid squarely at the feet of the state and local authorities? Much has been said about racism and classism – and it may well be true – but if so, isn’t it the classism of the mayor and/or governor who failed to provide bus transport for those without the means to leave on their own?
Bush has been faulted for only cutting his vacation short by two days, which seems silly to me. Congress has been taken to task for taking five days to convene – vs. the single day it took them to convene for the Schiavo case – which seems like a much more legitimate complaint. But the actions of the president and congress generally take effect in the large and over the long term – would accelerating either of those events have changed anything about how the first responders handled the crisis?
If anyone can shed any light, it would be much appreciated.
UPDATE: OK, another data point has come to my attention: the Army Corp of engineers got a lot less money than they requested for flood management in the last budget. It’s not clear who’s doing that was, though – presumably it happened during the usual congressional pork-wrangling.
UPDATE 2: Some good information here on the lack of adequate federal response, particularly on the part of FEMA. More than anything, it sounds like general disaster preparedness has suffered due to the single-minded focus on terrorism.
UPDATE 3: Much more here. Sounds like rolling FEMA into the DHS was Really Bad Idea. I’m not sure if that can be laid at the feet of the Bush administration or not. Yes, the administration is responsible for creating the DHS – but only after dragging it’s heels while Democrats in congress called out for it’s creation. To quote the article:
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he voted to put FEMA under Homeland Security – and now questions that decision after watching all the chaos.
Something else that this article brings up is that the National Guard has apparently been hampering some relief efforts. They’ve kept the Red Cross out of the city, for what may or may not be good reasons. But it sounds like their beaurocratic rigidity is also standing in the way of potential rescues:
“We’ve tried desperately to rescue 250 people trapped in a Salvation Army facility. They’ve been trapped in there since the flood came in. Many are on dialysis machines,” said Maj. George Hood, national communications secretary for the relief organization.
“Yesterday we rented big fan boats to pull them out and the National Guard would not let us enter the city,” he said. The reason: a new plan to evacuate the embattled city grid by grid – and the Salvation Army’s facility didn’t fall in the right grid that day, Hood said in a telephone interview from Jackson, Miss.