Referring to cronyism at FEMA, Rod Dreher says:
This is a scandal, a real scandal. How is it possible that four years after 9/11, the president treats a federal agency vital to homeland security as a patronage prize? The main reason I've been a Bush supporter all along is I trusted him (note past tense) on national security -- which, in the age of mass terrorism, means homeland security too. Call me naive, but it's a real blow to learn that political hacks have been running FEMA, of all agencies of the federal government! What if al-Qaeda had blown the New Orleans levees? How much worse would the crony-led FEMA's response have been? Would conservatives stand for any of this for one second if a Democrat were president? If this is what Republican government means, God help the poor GOP Congressmen up for re-election in 2006.
Here's more on this topic from Bush-supporting hack Instapundit.
As New Orleans descended into chaos last week and Louisiana's governor asked for 40,000 soldiers, President Bush's senior advisers debated whether the president should speed the arrival of active-duty troops by seizing control of the hurricane relief mission from the governor.
For reasons of practicality and politics, officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon, and then at the White House, decided not to urge Mr. Bush to take command of the effort. Instead, the Washington officials decided to rely on the growing number of National Guard personnel flowing into Louisiana, who were under Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's control.
The debate began after officials realized that Hurricane Katrina had exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated.
Hmmm... I know there's been a great deal of concern about what happens to the first responders and the local help in case of a terrorist attack, so I have a great deal of trouble believing that anyone could not consider that possibility in case of a natural disaster. See point #2 in the National Response Plan: "the resources of State and local authorities are overwhelmed and Federal assistance has been requested".
As criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina has mounted, one of the most pointed questions has been why more troops were not available more quickly to restore order and offer aid. Interviews with officials in Washington and Louisiana show that as the situation grew worse, they were wrangling with questions of federal/state authority, weighing the realities of military logistics and perhaps talking past each other in the crisis.
To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established.
While combat troops can conduct relief missions without the legal authority of the Insurrection Act, Pentagon and military officials say that no active-duty forces could have been sent into the chaos of New Orleans on Wednesday or Thursday without confronting law-and-order challenges.
But just as important to the administration [was the politics of it: male Bush seizing control from female Blanco, etc.]...
...In the discussions in Washington, also at issue was whether active-duty troops could respond faster and in larger numbers than the Guard.
By last Wednesday, Pentagon officials said even the 82nd Airborne, which has a brigade on standby to move out within 18 hours, could not arrive any faster than 7,000 National Guard troops, which are specially trained and equipped for civilian law enforcement duties.
In the end, the flow of thousands of National Guard soldiers, especially military police, was accelerated from other states.
"I was there. I saw what needed to be done," Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in an interview. "They were the fastest, best-capable, most appropriate force to get there in the time allowed. And that's what it's all about."
But one senior Army officer expressed puzzlement that active-duty troops were not summoned sooner, saying 82nd Airborne troops were ready to move out from Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sunday [Aug. 28], the day before the hurricane hit.
The call never came, administration officials said, in part because military officials believed Guard troops would get to the stricken region faster and because administration civilians worried that there could be political fallout if federal troops were forced to shoot looters.
Louisiana officials were furious that there was not more of a show of force, in terms of relief supplies and troops, from the federal government in the middle of last week. As the water was rising in New Orleans, the governor repeatedly questioned whether Washington had started its promised surge of federal resources.
"We needed equipment," Ms. Blanco said in an interview. "Helicopters. We got isolated."
Aides to Ms. Blanco said she was prepared to accept the deployment of active-duty military officials in her state. But she and other state officials balked at giving up control of the Guard as Justice Department officials said would have been required by the Insurrection Act if those combat troops were to be sent in before order was restored.
In a separate discussion last weekend, the governor also rejected a more modest proposal for a hybrid command structure in which both the Guard and active-duty troops would be under the command of an active-duty, three-star general - but only after he had been sworn into the Louisiana National Guard.
Snopes says this is false:
New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco refused President Bush's pleas to declare an emergency in Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina struck.
The timeline they provide... isn't in temporal order, so I've corrected the below (assuming they have their facts correct that is):
- On Friday (26 August), Governor Blanco did indeed declare a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana in advance of Katrina's making landfall in the Gulf Coast.
- On Saturday (27 August), Governor Blanco asked President Bush to declare a state of emergency at the federal level for the state of Louisiana.
- The White House responded to Governor Blanco's request that same day (Saturday) by declaring the emergency and authorizing FEMA "to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."
- According to the St. Petersberg Times, Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center contacted government officials in Louisiana and Mississippi on Saturday night (27 August), not Friday night. [he apparently requested a mandatory evacuation due to Katrina's strength]
- According to the New Orleans Time-Picayune, President Bush's first communication with Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco occurred on Sunday morning (August 28), just before a 9:30 AM press conference called by Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to announce the latter's mandatory evacuation order for New Orleans.
They have links at their page, so feel free to put any corrections or additional information in the comments.
9/19/05 UPDATE: Unfortunately, I didn't save off Snopes' page when I posted this, since it seems to have changed.
The current version has this as the assertion:
Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco refused President Bush's pleas to declare an emergency before Hurricane Katrina struck.
Note that Nagin has been removed from what's above. And, note that the file was originally called "nagin.asp" but now it's "blanco.asp." They also appear to have added some text to the end.
There are copies of the original version here and here if anyone would care to do a diff. Note that the current version says its mod date is 9/9, but the first has a 9/8 mod date at the end of the excerpt.
...Like New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and FEMA director Michael Brown, President Bush must explain why, for three to four days, no one could manage at least to air drop bottled water and granola bars on thousands of Katrina survivors who baked under temperatures exceeding 90 degrees at the Crescent City's Superdome, its convention center, and freeway overpasses in the central business district.
While he must answer for that and other badly dropped balls, Bush need not apologize for being fueled by bigotry during last week's "inadequate" federal response, as he described it.
This charge crumbles on first inspection.
George W. Bush is a politician with a very ambitious agenda. Does Randall Robinson really believe that Bush thinks it would be easier to persuade Congress to reform Social Security if he merely arranged to deny poor, beleaguered blacks food and water for over half a week?
Does Elijah Cummings truly believe that Bush thinks it would encourage the Senate to confirm his judicial appointees if he ordered FEMA to conduct slow-motion rescues of elderly black ladies from their attics?
Does Kanye West actually believe that Bush eagerly anticipated televised images of parched, screaming black babies as a public-diplomacy tool to boost European and Middle Eastern support for U.S. policy in Iraq and the Arab world?...
In a word, no. Since the blame appears to be shared among the federal government and those in the states and localities, and since it appears to touch both Republicans and Democrats, any investigation needs to be handled by a group that is above partisanship and political favor. The investigation needs to be conducted in as transparent a manner as possible and hopefully not by Washington (or Louisiana) insiders.
In fact, the article "Bush Says He'll Find Out What Went Wrong" sounds slightly like that that might appear in the Cuban press:
Buffeted by criticism over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush said Tuesday he will oversee an investigation into what went wrong and why _ in part to be sure the country could withstand more storms or attack.
Bush also announced he is sending Vice President Dick Cheney to the Gulf Coast region on Thursday to help determine whether the government is doing all that it can...
[Bush said:] "Bureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people... What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong... We still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure we can respond properly if there is a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack or another major storm... One of the things people want us to do here is play the blame game... We got to solve problems. There will be ample time to figure out what went right and what went wrong."
...Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., had told reporters Monday that the Homeland Security Committee would convene hearings as Congress returns this week to examine the "weaknesses and strengths" of the federal response and to "apply the lessons learned."
...Bush did not respond directly when asked if anyone on his disaster response team should be replaced...