Well. If that ain't the pot calling the kettle black. For starters, disaster planning happens at the state and local level, not with FEMA. FEMA helps coordinate federal disaster response, at the direction of local authorities, in accordance with the plan. But here we have Ray Nagin on TV talking about how "we're getting a plan together." Excuse me? You're the mayor of a city that sits below sea level, is surrounded by higher water, depends on a levy system designed for a Cat 3 hurricane, and are about a decade overdue for a Cat 4 storm...and you didn't have a plan in place for widespread flooding following a hurricane? I understand, hindsight is 20/20, but these guys are paid to be thinking ahead, and this was not an unimagineable scenario. And then, to deflect attention, they blame a very convenient target: the feds. The media is happy to play along.
Most disaster planners recognize that outside help may not be available for a certain period of time, and plan accordingly. In Florida last year, the hurricane plan provided for three days without federal help. In the area around New Orleans, transportation infrastructure is shattered. I-10 is in shambles. Rail lines are impassible. The airport is largely under water. And three days into the crisis, the locals are screaming that the cavalry was too slow in getting there. Well, shouldn't your plan have anticipated that contingency and provided for some degree of self-reliance?
The cesspool at the Superdome has become the focal point of the media's criticism. Apparently, while first responders were busy rescuing families off rooftops, evacuating hospitals, and trying to avoid getting shot at by the hoods that've been roaming the streets, they also should've figured out how to materialize a convoy of air-conditioned coaches out of thin air, willed them over destroyed streets, and whisked everybody off to Houston. Mind you, the Superdome itself is in a relatively dry area. Nobody was in danger of drowning. Nothing prevented anybody from leaving the rank confines of the Superdome. Indeed, the only reason they were there in the first place was to ride out the hurricane. Katrina was gone by Tuesday morning.
Yesterday CNN's Suzanne Malveaux was interviewing former Presidents George HW Bush and Bill Clinton. She was parotting criticism of the federal government's response when Clinton had the following to say:
CLINTON: Let me answer this. The people in the Superdome are in a special position. And let me say, I've been going to New Orleans for over 50 years. There's no place on earth I love more. They went into the Superdome, not because of the flooding, but because we thought the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans smack dab and they'd be safe in there if they didn't leave town.Finally! Some common sense in all this. Now...can we please get down to continuing the rescue efforts, collecting and burying the dead, and beginning the recovery process? There will be plenty of time for criticism later, for those who seem to be rather inclined.
What happened was, when the levee broke and the town flooded, what did it do? It knocked out the electricity and it knocked out the sewage. They're living in hellacious conditions. They would be better off under a tree than being stuck there. You can't even breathe in that place now.
So I understand why they're so anxiety-ridden. But they have to understand, by the time it became obvious that they were in the fix they were in, there were a lot of other problems, too. There were people -- they were worried about people drowning that had to be taken off roofs.
MALVEAUX: So you two believe that the federal response was fast enough?
CLINTON: All I'm saying is what I know the facts are today. There are hundreds of buses now engaged in the act of taking people from New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston. And you and I are not in a position to make any judgment because we weren't there.
All I'm saying is the way they got stuck there, I see why they feel the way they do. But the people that put them there did it because they thought they were saving their lives. And then when the problems showed up, they had a lot of other people to save. Now they've got hundreds of buses. We just need to get them out.