Plenty of blame to go around

If by “around” you mean from Gretna all the way to Baton Rouge.

We were told that this disaster shows the utter folly of small government philosophy; analogies between Grover Norquist’s “bathtub” and the city of New Orleans are everywhere. All this from a delay in delivering supplies that came about when a private organization (the Red Cross) ready to deliver those supplies early on was prevented from doing so by the State of Louisiana. And evacuation on foot was blocked by the Gretna police (although it seems that Airline Highway to the west was open to foot traffic all the way to Baton Rouge; too bad no one on the scene seems to have pointed this out to many desperate would-be evacuees.). This isn’t quite the slam-dunk refutation of libertarianism that we were promised ever since the levees broke.

We are told that the resulting suffering is somehow the fault of the Bush Administration. While it would make sense to fault the Administration for delays caused by failure to anticipate some aspect of the disaster or the aftermath, I find it difficult to blame the Administration for failing to anticipate that the State of Louisiana would cut off the victims’ supply lines. Perhaps the Admininstration should have assumed that the State Government of Louisiana is a potentially hostile power that may blockade an American city, but no one in any party at any level of government or anywhere else came close to predicting that beforehand.

But the Administration obviously doesn’t take its disaster relief responsibilities seriously; the head of FEMA during the disaster was a political hack with no relevant experience (well, except for being head of FEMA during four hurricanes in Florida – when the response went so well that the Administration stands accused of currying favor with Florida voters through its extra-well-done response).

And Administration officials showed their complete ineptitude by saying that the breach of the levees wasn’t anticipated (except that it wasn’t – what was anticipated was the storm surge going over the levees during the storm and leaving a much smaller number of people needing relief and evacuation, not a breach of the levee leading to gradual flooding and lots of stranded survivors). The idiots at FEMA didn’t even know that there were thousands of people at the Convention Center (of course, according to the plan, there weren’t supposed to be thousands of people at the Convention Center, and the rest of the country didn’t know it either until a few hours earlier, not a whole day. What idiots those FEMA guys are for not spending their whole day watching TV!)

Well, now the Administration is set to show its real ineptitude – its problems with public relations. The President seems to be planning to “take responsibility” for the problems that came about in the aftermath – problems caused at the state and local level. Problems that only went away when the Feds showed up in force on the scale and timeline promised. Some will say that it’s only right, that the buck should stop with him. This would even make sense – if he were Blanco’s boss. He isn’t. All he’s going to do is leave people with the impression that the Feds are supposed to be responsible for anything and everything that happens the first few days, and that they failed in this responsibility.

So what can we take away from this? First, the withdrawl of occupation forces from Louisiana in 1877 seems to have been a bit hasty. Second, always keep 3-4 days worth of food and water and other supplies on hand. And third, when our friends on the left and in the media assert (as they do every time anything of significance happens) that the incompetence of the Administration is on display before any real information comes to light, it’s best to ignore them (a lesson that yours truly will take to heart).

Update: Bush noted that the overall response was unacceptable (without any detail on who was responding when), and promised a comprehensive review of emergency procedures along with a greater Federal role in future. Of course since the next disaster will probably happen in some state other than Louisiana, where competent officials exist, this will most likely do more harm than good overall. He’s also promised to shower lots of money on the evacuees and on Louisiana state and local governments to help rebuild the city and the levees (has he learned nothing from dealing with those people? Any Federal money put in the hands of Louisiana officials would do slightly more good if it were set on fire instead. And working with Louisiana officials is not a good way to get a stronger levee!), to build the city bigger and better and stronger, to encourage evacuees to rebuild their lives better than ever back in New Orleans (he apparently hasn’t learned anything from dealing with those people. The best way for most of the evacuees to build better and more prosperous lives is for them to stay the hell away from Louisiana), and of course to conduct those reviews and gear up for a quicker and more massive Federal response to disasters. Not too surprising overall, sad to say.

1 thought on “Plenty of blame to go around”

  1. The cover of the current issue of National Review has a lovely photo of the school buses under water. The New Orleans city government has no excuse for this, zero. Spread the blame all you want, put some of it on FEMA, DHS and Bush — but local government is supposed to be the first responder and they botched it six ways from Tuesday.

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