September 06, 2005

N.O. Blame


From a CNN interveiw between reporter Soledad O'Brien* and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (via Little Green Footballs):

S. O'BRIEN: You're telling me the president [Bush] told you the governor [Blanco] said she needed 24 hours to make a decision?


S. O'BRIEN: Regarding what? Bringing troops in?

NAGIN: Whatever they had discussed. As far as what the -- I was abdicating a clear chain of command, so that we could get resources flowing in the right places.

S. O'BRIEN: And the governor said no.

NAGIN: She said that she needed 24 hours to make a decision. It would have been great if we could of left Air Force One, walked outside, and told the world that we had this all worked out. It didn't happen, and more people died.

From The Washington Post: Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting.

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Craig Martelle: FEMA is not a first responder.

As one who has received training by FEMA in emergency management and also training by the Department of Defense in consequence management, I believe that the federal response in New Orleans needs clarification.

The key to emergency management starts at the local level and expands to the state level. Emergency planning generally does not include any federal guarantees, as there can only be limited ones from the federal level for any local plan. FEMA provides free training, education, assistance and respond in case of an emergency, but the local and state officials run their own emergency management program.

Prior development of an emergency plan, addressing all foreseeable contingencies, is the absolute requirement of the local government --and then they share that plan with the state emergency managers to ensure that the state authorities can provide necessary assets not available at the local level. Additionally, good planning will include applicable elements of the federal government (those located in the local area). These processes are well established, but are contingent upon the personal drive of both hired and elected officials at the local level. ...

It seems that the mayor of New Orleans is leading the effort in not taking responsibility for his actions. The emergency managers for the state of Louisiana do not have much to say either. The failure in the first 48 hours to provide direction for survivors is theirs to live with. When FEMA was able to take over, it started out behind and had to develop its plan on the fly. Now the federal government has established priorities -- rescue the stranded, evacuate the city, flow in resources and fix the levee. It appears that now there is a plan and it is being systematically executed.

From The Telegraph: The Big Easy rocked, but didn't roll by Mark Steyn:

Readers may recall my words from a week ago on the approaching Katrina: "We relish the opportunity to rise to the occasion. And on the whole we do. Oh, to be sure, there are always folks who panic or loot. But most people don't, and many are capable of extraordinary acts of hastily improvised heroism."

What the hell was I thinking? I should be fired for that. Well, someone should be fired. I say that in the spirit of the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, the Anti-Giuliani, a Mayor Culpa who always knows where to point the finger.

*CORRECTED: The interviewer was reporter Soledad O'Brien not anchor Miles O'Brien. [hat tip Richard Wohlman]

UPDATE -- Sept. 7: From today's Wall Street Journal: Blame Amid the Tragedy by Bob Williams.

Many in the media are turning their eyes toward the federal government, rather than considering the culpability of city and state officials. I am fully aware of the challenges of having a quick and responsive emergency response to a major disaster. And there is definitely a time for accountability; but what isn't fair is to dump on the federal officials and avoid those most responsible--local and state officials who failed to do their job as the first responders. The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin.

The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his emergency operations center.

The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. [Emphasis added]

Posted by Forkum at September 6, 2005 06:20 PM