Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Katrina Debacle - by Ichobod Crane & edited by Steve Saltsman

The Katrina Debacle

And those who figured prominently in it.

The players:

Local Authorities:

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

Although he had twenty-four hour advance notice of the region being declared a disaster area, he failed to dispatch any buses to evacuate the people who had no transportation, nor did he give notice of his lack of intent to provide any assistance in their evacuation. His reckless indifference left the city buses for public transportation and the city school buses to be destroyed or damaged in their parking lots, rather than having them used to evacuate the citizens of New Orleans. He sat on his hands and complained of not having any Federal support, when it was his duty to have acted in the first place. The man is clearly incompetent to hold any public office.

His further response to Rita showed him to be criminally incompetent and badly in need of being replaced.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

She failed to oversee the evacuation of the populated regions in the path of the storm. After the President declared the region a disaster area, she should have dispatched the National Guard under her control to assist in the evacuations. At the very least they could have driven the buses and urged people to leave. She showed a level of incompetence on a par with Mayor Ray Nagin and should suffer the same fate with him.

She also, again, failed to control the situation in New Orleans and left the incompetent Ray Nagin to flounder and further endanger the citizens in that city. She is clearly as incompetent, negligent and criminally liable as the Mayor.

Federal Agencies in the loop:

Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton

Along with:

Department of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

And through the:

Secretary of the Army Dr. Harvey

Control the:

US Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District

Executive Office:

Col. Richard P. Wagenaar, District Engineer

Maj. Murray Starkel, Deputy District Engineer

Gregory Breerwood, Deputy District Engineer for Project Management

This agency had been prohibited from building stronger flood defenses for New Orleans by the Courts that favored several environmental groups who had sued the Corps to cease and desist from further encroachment into the wetland in order to protect several wild, indigenous species of plants and animals. Their response subsequent to the breaches of the levees was exemplary. Their plan to reinforce the levees and other flood protection designs should be allowed to proceed unhindered and forthwith.

The LA Senators have consistently diverted funds from levee work for other ‘pet’ projects as well. What can be done about these Senators?

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff

He has a case of arrogance of the first order. His most poignant statements were “I’ve got this down,” …and… “There’ll be plenty of time,” Chertoff told Tim Russert, “to do the after-action analysis.” …and… “After- action analysis should not interfere with current recovery operations.” … and repetitions ad infinitum. His complete inattention to his undersecretary’s lack of performance is astounding. He is guilty, at the very least, of lack of leadership and total disregard of the entire situation. This man should resign immediately, or be fired by the President if he fails to do so. Otherwise he should be impeached by the Congress.

Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response Michael D. Brown (Head of FEMA)

His lack of experience was painfully obvious in his lack of leadership and preparedness in the wake of the disaster. He utterly failed to provide even the minimum response from FEMA. Subsequently, he also showed great arrogance in disavowing any responsibilities. This man should also resign immediately, or be fired by the President if he fails to do so. Otherwise he too, should be impeached by the Congress.

Thank God he resigned; but criminal charges should be considered against him notwithstanding.

The Senate of the United States of America

This body was totally and completely negligent in its duties of ‘advice and consent’ in allowing either Michael Chertoff or Michael Brown to be approved to their current positions. These men’s absolute lack of qualifications demanded that they not be elevated into these critical roles. Undoubtedly they will pass this off onto the President, although it was their duty to stop this appointment.

Of course many liberals in the Senate made a fuss about them; however, with the current political climate, where every move the President makes raises a fuss, they were discounted as yet again crying wolf. Here is a prime reason that this heretofore August Body badly needs to regain some semblance of dignity and stop all the caterwauling from both sides. All of them share blame in this political crisis.

The current leaders of both parties who have been engaging in such juvenile antics should be reprimanded and removed from their current leadership roles; they have shown no leadership whatsoever. The time for such behavior, if there is any such time, is prior to elections and other important votes, not after the fact. This only serves to obfuscate current and more important business; like engaging in level-headed debate on candidates’ qualifications for important positions, not on what their political affiliations are. We know their affiliations simply by them being appointed by a President, be he a Democrat or Republican.

President of the United States George W. Bush

In appointing Michael Brown to be promoted as the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response (Head of FEMA), and Michael Chertoff, the President made the most grievous errors of his Presidency; however, it was still the responsibility of the Senate to disqualify the appointments. That is their role; they are the ones who do the investigations. Nevertheless, the President will suffer politically for having nominated this unqualified man, and his clueless boss, in the first place. These positions should be promoted from within the ranks of FEMA, the Coast Guard, or even from the Pentagon, where people have the needed experience and skills with handling emergency management. These two appointments will cast serious doubts on all subsequent Presidential appointments, particularly now, with the Supreme Court vacancies, as well as other lower court appointments. Hopefully, the Senate will look very hard indeed on all Presidential appointments.

I can’t see how the President can be impeached for these appointments, however, unless all the Senators who approved of them resign first. When that happens, then perhaps the other should as well. After all, a President might appoint an unqualified person who feels he is owed an appointment by helping the President get elected; but then, when the Senate rejects them the President has been cleared of any further obligation to that person. Politics are messy, and these things happen in the course of things, hence the Senate’s role in the process. From that perspective, the Senate was even more remiss in their duty to the country than the President, who has political obligations that need paying. That is the purpose behind the Founder’s reasoning for the Senate’s “advice and consent” clause. Such has always been the way of politics.

The President’s initial response was timely in declaring the parts of the Gulf region (that were threatened by Katrina), a disaster area over a day prior to its making landfall. This should have been time enough to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people had the local government simply followed their existing plans that had been in place for just such an emergency.

It isn’t understood what more he, personally, could have done subsequent to the storm. The entire chain of government had broken down under him, particularly at the local level. Federal agencies that should have acted after the Executive Order of the declaration of the disaster area, acted as though stunned by the magnitude of the event, especially with the local governments doing nothing to help themselves.

The President’s perceived lack of action after the disaster manifested was no doubt, not due to the scope of the devastation, but to the massive incompetence at the state and local levels. Indeed what could he do in the face of that disaster? The federal government can only do its job when the local governments do theirs; ours is a bottom up governmental organization on the home front. This breakdown should be addressed by a conference of the Governors from all of the States to formulate local contingency plans for the Federal Government’s involvement when the local structure breaks down. Should Martial Law have been declared? That is a most extreme response, but perhaps necessary for the situation in New Orleans, particularly in the face of the anarchy that broke out there. Again, that was due to the utter failure of the local government.

In previous disasters, like the four hurricanes that hit in Florida last year, the local governments did their jobs, making the tasks of the Federal agencies easily integrated into the relief efforts. When the local governments drop their responsibilities by having no local operation for the Federal assistance to integrate into, the Fed’s must develop a plan before they can act on it. In all cases, with the exception of an unqualified head of FEMA, the breakdown of the local government is what inhibited the smooth response of the Federal agencies.

Clearly, the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin and the Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, should be removed from office and prosecuted criminally for the deaths that resulted due to their incompetence and indifference. Under Secretary Michael D. Brown [who has resigned while this was being written] should also be prosecuted criminally, although on what charge(s) is questionable. His first act of incompetence was in accepting an appointment for which he was severely under-qualified. The Senators who voted for his appointment should receive an official censure at the very least.

The courts that prohibited the Army Corps of Engineers should be investigated and their judgments reviewed for judicial malfeasance. Any judge found guilty of said malfeasance should be removed and prosecuted as required.

Hurricane Rita found a country more ready because of Katrina, but the Texas government, at all levels, were prepared and professional in the execution of their plans and should be commended. Ray Nagin was still trying to get the population of New Orleans back into the city – he learned nothing at all.

The biggest difference between the two states might be seen by their ‘entitlement mentality’ – LA seems to thrive of it; TX seems well off without it. This has been a great study in “less is more” for all to learn from.

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Some great thoughts to ponder from The Federalist. (www.federalist.com)

SELECT READER COMMENTS:

(Our servers automatically delete "Reply" messages to this e-mail. Submit comments for publication or to view reader comments: http://FederalistPatriot.US/comments.asp Join the debate at the Patriot Blog: http://PatriotPostBlog.US/ )

"So Junior Sen. Hillary Clinton and House Mini Leader Nancy Pelosi say they want a commission to investigate what went wrong in New Orleans—in other words, an open and extended forum to blame Republicans. Last week, Republicans proposed a review board for this purpose and Democrats balked. Pelosi now says Democrats should boycott this review, and claims it will lead to a whitewash of the facts. I guess that, as more facts are now becoming available, Pelosi and Clinton are less anxious for a review."—Albany, New York

Editor's Reply: Democrats don't really want anyone looking that closely at the Demo machinations in the Big Easy. As Patriot No. 05-36 noted Friday, "Indeed, Democrats may get their 'inquisition commission,' hoping for colorful headlines trumpeting 'Republican failures' in the upcoming election year, but they had best take care what they ask for, lest they get it. Inquiring too deeply into factual communication, material distribution and evacuation failures after Katrina will likely yield answers that sink Louisiana Democrats—from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to Governor Kathleen Blanco. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who diverted Corps of Engineer funding from NOLA levees to her pet projects, just might need to pack her bags." Republicans called Pelosi's bluff, but you have to hand it to her, the "boycott protest" tactic is a clever dodge. Fact is, Republicans should go on the offensive now, and insist on a review. Let the Demos wiggle out of this one.

"'Natural Disaster'? Natural: for all but New Orleans. N.O. was a man-made disaster. For generations, state and local governments continued to develop the area around New Orleans—below sea level development—against the advice of the Corp of Enginieers. They ignored the possibilities and embraced the long odds of a Cat 4+ hurricane. They gambled and lost—and while the politicians are trying to tie losses to the Bush administration (how ludicrous), the real losers are those folks who trusted Louisiana government to protect them from catastrophic disaster—the result of catastrophic ignorance."—Biloxi, Mississippi

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Opinions:

"A republican form of government presupposes self-government—the capacity of citizens to govern themselves according to reason—and does not, if it intends to survive, champion them as 'victims' when they don't." —George Neumayr ++ "Ours is a federal system. The President is sworn to uphold and support the Constitution. He is not a dictator. And not to be blamed for failing to act like one. The problem was not the Constitution or the President, but Louisiana's officials." —Michael Gaynor

"The worst thing the federal government could do is to increase the size, reach and cost of government. If government failed in its response to the hurricane, the answer is not more inefficient government." —Cal Thomas

"No fall of a sparrow on this planet is not attributed to sin and human perfidy. The three current favorites are: (1) global warming, (2) the war in Iraq and (3) tax cuts. Katrina hits and the unholy trinity is immediately invoked to damn sinner-in-chief George W. Bush." —Charles Krauthammer

"What we are witnessing is a well-honed black political public-relations operation geared to obfuscation, stoking hatred and fear, and nurturing helplessness and dependence among black citizens. Such efforts keep black politicians powerful, diversity businesses prosperous and blacks poor." —Star Parker

"[A]rtificial [gas] price caps will work no better now than they did in the 1970s. They won't get petroleum refined faster. They won't reduce motorists' demand for gasoline. All they will create is shortages—the one thing price controls always bring in their wake." —Jeff Jacoby

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Dana Summers by Dana Summers

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