The Washington Times
As the storm waters were receding, levies were being repaired by the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. military helicopters were flying victims out of flooded neighborhoods to safety, and Congress was sending a $10.5 billion emergency aid bill to President Bush’s desk, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was on the radio criticizing the Bush administration for not doing enough to help his city.
Mr. Nagin was comparing Washington’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina to the Iraq war, suggesting in an interview Friday that Mr. Bush acted “lickety-split” in Iraq but dragged his feet during the hurricane.
Some cynics might suggest that the mayor was playing politics with the Gulf disaster.
No one in New Orleans, let alone the state, seemed to be in charge of rescue operations in the Big Easy immediately after Katrina hit the Gulf coast. Indeed, there seemed to be the absence of any organized response by the city as the mayor zigged and zagged from one policy to another. First he told his police force to ignore lawlessness and focus on rescue efforts. Then as things began spinning into anarchy and looters were pillaging, shooting and stealing just about everything they could get their hands on, he told police to focus on law enforcement.
Then things got even worse. There seemed to be no centers where victims could go once the Superdome was filled, to dry out and get water and food, even though there were areas of the city that were not flooded. The mayor had ordered an evacuation of the city, but made no immediate efforts to use hundreds of unused school buses to get the poor, sick and disabled out of the area. That idea came much later, after many victims had died of exposure.
So things weren’t going well on the mayor’s watch, and by Friday he went on the air and did what many politicians do when they are under fire for incompetence — they point the blame at someone else.Compare that to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the aftermath of 9/11. Mr. Giuliani rolled up his sleeves, took charge and led the city through its worst disaster. He didn’t blame others and he didn’t pass the buck. He had put a trained city management team in place that acted with professionalism, courage and dispatch under dangerous conditions.
On Tuesday, Mr. Bush was putting together a government-wide response to the disaster, which went into effect immediately. He called for a disaster assistance package and by Friday it was on his desk. A large aid bill will be coming out of Congress in the weeks to come when the full costs of the recovery effort are known.
If memory serves me well, Congress took longer to pass the 9/11 aid package, but Mr. Giuliani did not whine and complain. He was part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Going on the air to complain that the federal government not doing enough when nearly a dozen government departments and agencies were in New Orleans by mid-week to aid the recovery efforts, seems an unusual way to lead, to say the least.
And the mayor could not say that he did not know what was coming. He had days of forecasts of the coming Category Four storm to prepare for the worst. It came and he was not prepared.
Technorati Tags: Politics, New Orleans, Hurricane, Katrina