Here at Observations I’ve repeatedly laid the responsibility for the first and most serious screw-ups in New Orleans where it belongs: with the local and state governments. That position isn’t in vogue, and it isn’t sexy. Everyone who attempts to say "let's wait and see before hanging people" is shouted down.
Even so, there are a few brave souls out there willing to publicly say that the naysayers, Bush-bashers, and critics of everything George Bush is now and has ever been associated with, are wrong about the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Here is an excerpt from one such opinion, reported on NewsMax.com.
More frustrating still, it appears that Bush and everybody else associated with Katrina's federal rescue effort has precious little to apologize for.
In fact, as chronicled over the weekend by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's Jack Kelly, the so-called villainous, incompetent feds actually performed quite well this time - in comparison with past efforts.
"The federal response here was faster than [in Hurricane] Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne," a National Guardsman involved in the Katrina rescue effort told Kelly.
The federal government pretty much met its standard timelines, but the volume of support provided during the [first] 72-96 hour[s] was unprecedented."
After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, National Guard troops didn't arrive on the scene in strength for five days.
And as NewsMax noted last week, FEMA's response to Hurricane Floyd in 1999 - with the agency then under the vaunted leadership of President Clinton's appointee James Lee Witt - was fraught with month-long delays.
After Katrina's floodwaters hit, however, the National Guard, the Coast Guard and, yes, FEMA - was on the scene in force in three days.
In just the first week after New Orleans' levees had been breached:
- More than 32,000 people had been rescued by Coast Guard helicopters.
- Shelter, food and medical care had been provided to more than 180,000 evacuees.
- The Army Corps of Engineers had all but repaired the breaches and had begun pumping water out of New Orleans.
Unnoted by columnist Kelly is the fact that the extraordinary first week's effort took place while roving bands of Katrina "victims" were shooting at the rescuers.
Considering the complete collapse of city and state rescue efforts - where even the most basic stipulations of New Orleans' evacuation plan were ignored - the federal operation was a model of efficiency.
It's just too bad that the head of the federal government can't muster the political courage to say so out loud.