Saturday, September 10, 2005

Performance, Not Politics

David Ignatius, in The Washington Post:

The immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has looked like politics as usual. The Democrats are in a paroxysm of righteous indignation -- much of it justified but in the long run counterproductive. When Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid proposes that the Senate investigate whether President's Bush's vacation contributed to the disaster, the public response is likely to be: Give me a break! When the Democrats focus all their criticism on the GOP-led federal government and ignore the appalling lapses of Democratic administrations in New Orleans and Louisiana, they lose credibility.

Ignatius quoted Newt Gingrich:

For the last week the federal government and its state and local counterparts have consistently been behind the curve. The American people overwhelmingly know that the current situation is totally is a mistake to get trapped into defending the systems and processes which clearly failed.

They've got it right.


Blogger Jay said...

errr....losing an entire city and displacing a couple of million people is a national problem.

2:09 PM, September 10, 2005  
Blogger Torrid said...

even if you allow for local officials being unable to complete the job of evacuation and relief in a successful manner, the reason many people lay the preponderance of the blame on the feds is because they began asking for help with it as early as the Friday before the storm.

It's a reality that big disasters require a federal response. Once the call came out for help, the fact that it took about 7-8 days AFTER the request is inexcusable. To declare some kind of "immoral equivalence," that because the local officials did not shine in their efforts that criticism of the federal response is unwarranted, borders on the absurd IMO.

8:41 PM, September 10, 2005  
Blogger EuroYank said...

thanks for your visit and your comment (and you are entitled to your "Extremist" view)....

In terms of this post, I think you're overstating the case on both sides. Liberalism and conservatism (in the modern American sense) both make sense in theory. The problems come when extremists on either side take basic principles and make them irrational. At a point somewhere near the elusive "middle" of the political spectrum, where the two strains of thought meet, the best qualities of both ideologies combine to produce our system of government. If you look at the long term, that's the consistent influence you see.

8:15 AM, September 11, 2005  
Blogger Esther said...

There will be plenty of time to blame people in the months to come. Right now, everyone needs to concentrate on action. Otherwise, the situation will never improve.

1:43 PM, September 11, 2005  
Blogger Patrick Hernan said...

As always, I enjoy your blog, Tom. Katrina sure has provided fodder for the chattering class. How about RFK Jr.'s assertion the day after Katrina that Haley Barbour was to blame for the storm because of his position on global warming?

I've been busy with other projects recently but have been keeping my blogs on gas prices and crime news updated.


Patrick Hernan

10:01 AM, September 14, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Tom, I still like your idea of a people's tribunal to investigate.

I agree that effective disaster relief is very important, but many of the proposals I have been seeing seem likely to make things worse rather than better.

What the average individual wants is to figure out how to make us effectively able to respond to massive disasters as effectively as possible. What the politicians want is to push their own talking points.

3:12 PM, September 14, 2005  
Blogger Junebugg said...

Do you think that if it was a terrorist attack that the power-that-be would have responded differently? What about if it happened in Belaire or some other ritzy part of the country? The news keeps saying that because lots of the damage was in "poor" parts of the country that make a difference. I'm not sure of the answer, but it's time that the public caused an outcry and tried to make some changes so this won't ever happen again.

10:42 AM, September 15, 2005  
Blogger carla said...

There will be plenty of time to blame people in the months to come. Right now, everyone needs to concentrate on action. Otherwise, the situation will never improve.

Actually, there isn't plenty of time to cast blame later. We need to figure out RIGHT NOW who dropped the ball and fix it. Hurricane season is barely underway.

This is supposed to be one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent history. We simply can't afford to sit around dithering about helping those already in trouble..when more hurricanes are sure to come soon.

10:26 PM, September 15, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Junebugg, there were undoubtedly a lot of things that were not done as well as all of us would like. It's unlikely that even a future terrorist attack will creat a devastated area as big and complex as this one. Regardless of the improvements we can make, the response will never be "adequate." That's just reality.

The characteristics of this disaster are what define it. If a large city with significantly different demographics has to be evacuated in a disaster, citizens with the necessary ability and self-sufficiency will get themselves out, given the amount of time available for evacuation from New Orleans. In New Orleans, they say it was 80 percent; in other cities it might be nearly 100 percent or 60 percent. And that will happen before a federal response can be mobilized, not to mention a lot of the local and state response.

Carla, we're not dithering. There's a massive relief effort underway for the Katrina victims. The current finger-pointing detracts from that effort. Finding out who was at fault is going to be time consuming and difficult, and making structural changes that may be necessary will also take a lot of time.

What's disgusting is the ill-informed, partisan nature of all the noise being made right now. Conservatives want to show the photos of hundreds of unused busses that could have helped thousands of people, Mayor Nagin's confused and hysterical response (as opposed to Mayor Giuliani's cool leadership), and Governor Blanco's slow and confused decision making. Democrats want to talk about the fact that President Bush was receiving advice, making decisions, having videoconferences, and using the telephone in Crawford instead of in Washington. They want to beat the drum on poor FEMA leadership and concoct conspiracy theories. Whatever commissions or committees investigate this, they'll be characterized by the same self-serving partisan bickering.

Like I said, it's disgusting.

8:57 AM, September 17, 2005  
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