Blogs > HNN > Where’s Our Leader?

Aug 30, 2005 7:51 pm

Where’s Our Leader?

About the catastrophe unfolding in southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina, the press reported today that “President George W. Bush has called on Americans to donate to the Red Cross or other organizations to help while his priority was ‘saving lives.’ The president was interrupting his holiday to return to the Washington two days earlier than planned, the White House said.”

I will await further information to make a final decision about Bush’s response, but my first impressions—as a New Orleans native who has gone through hurricanes and flooding in the past—is this: why hasn’t Bush taken all necessary steps, as he promised?

Yes, before the storm struck, he declared the region a disaster area, which triggered FEMA mobilization. But that was not enough. This is a massive catastrophe, and it was clear before the storm came onshore that it would be. Now, at this moment, there are thousands trapped in homes and generally in the New Orleans metropolitan area from rising waters. Thousands of others down river, across the lake, and east along the Gulf coast are in desperate need. Where are the helicopters and boats and personnel to rescue people, or to find and identify the dead, or to establish shelters?

The Coast Guard has been active today, but there are too few National Guardsmen and military personnel to assist local police and first responders in searching for those stranded, evacuating people, protecting property, and so on. Water is still pouring into New Orleans and environs from Lake Pontchartrain through two breaches in the levee system, which, given the conditions and their limited resources, the Corps of Engineers has failed to close. The power grid is out. The potable water system is broken. The sewage system is not working. This for a whole city and the metro area from Biloxi to the east to the far western and southern suburbs of New Orleans.

Patients are being evacuated from hospitals because of flooding. The city’s access by road east and north has been closed off because of damage to bridges. We don’t have good reports of damage and flooding neighborhood by neighborhood. Many of the military who could help, many of them from Louisiana and Mississippi, are in Iraq, listening to or watching the news about their homes being under water or their families missing. Hundreds of thousands who evacuated are unable to return to New Orleans or the coast. They are homeless. Why didn’t Bush fly over the area today to survey the damage? To kick butt?

Well, at least Bush is returning from his holiday two days earlier and asking for your contributions to the Red Cross (which can’t get into the problem areas). We can be grateful for that.

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More Comments:

David T. Beito - 9/2/2005

How much of the slow response is due to the fact that so many troops and helicopters, engineers, etc. were over in Iraq? I am really surprised that more has been written about this.

Stephen Tootle - 8/31/2005

I think someone who knows more about the military should weigh in. I think the state national guards and army corps of engineers are the ones who would take the lead normally. I am sure there is a flowchart somewhere that explains who is in charge.

Jeffrey P. Kimball - 8/31/2005

As of 730 a.m. EDT this morning, 8/31, all I've heard is that the Navy is sailing out of Norfolk. This is four days too late. The governor of LA says people need to evacuate the Superdome. But how? Where will they go? This is only one of the major problems in the city and area. Local officials are overwhelmed.

Jonathan Dresner - 8/31/2005

So did the NYTimes, though without the screaming.

I don't mean to pile on, but I do wonder if, at some point, the question of whether the national guard's overextension in the Persian Gulf is going to affect their ability to be useful in the Gulf of Mexico.

Stephen Tootle - 8/30/2005

Drudge has posted a headline screaming that Bush is sending in the Navy.