Yesterday Mayor Nagin held a press conference, and the video is here. I don't have the full transcript, but the clip has the host saying that Nagin was asked about Michael Brown quitting FEMA and didn't comment. Then, the host says that Nagin said that "a lot of the blame, a lot of the fault can really be shared".
Indeed, as we can see from what Nagin then says:
"In the final analysis I think we all could have done things better... If I would have known that the cavalry wasn't coming in three... two or three days I would probably have planned things a little bit differently..."
Actually, that sounds more like Nagin is shoving the blame off on the feds, but, as with other politicians, it's occasionally difficult to tell exactly what they're saying.
"I don't know where that's coming from," [Ray Nagin] told NBC's "Meet the Press." "Amtrak never contacted me to make that offer. As a matter of fact, we checked the Amtrak lines for availability, and every available train was booked, as far as the report that I got, through September. So I'd like to see that report."
I think he misunderstands what "bankrupt" means. He seems to think it means just not having cash. Despite their bond ratings being lowered, I'm sure New Orleans can raise some money from somewhere.
[Nagin] said the city spent its last available cash last week on city employee payroll and was seeking bank loans, federal assistance and other means of financing to continue paying its bills and staff, the New Orleans Times Picayune reported Tuesday.
However, Nagin was emphatic state and federal officials would not railroad through city reconstruction until it had passed city muster.
"I don't want anybody outside of New Orleans planning nothing as it relates to how we're going to rebuild this city without us signing off on it," Nagin said...
In other words: don't try to cut me out of the rebuilding.
A partial transcript from Sunday's Meet the Press is here. Russert asks Nagin about his ventures into race-baiting and asks why the schoolbuses weren't used.
From "The Steady Buildup to a City's Chaos" comes this Sunday, August 28 news that should give some slight pause to the race-baiters:
Minutes earlier, Blanco had been pulled out to take a call from the president, pressed into service by FEMA's Brown to urge a mandatory evacuation. Blanco told him that's just what the mayor would order.
Nagin also announced that the city had set up 10 refuges of last resort, and promised that public buses would pick up stragglers in a dozen locations to take them to the Superdome and other shelters.
But he never mentioned the numbers that had haunted experts for years, the estimated 100,000 city residents without their own transportation. And he never mentioned that the state's comprehensive disaster plan, written in 2000 and posted on a state Web site, called for buses to take people out of the city once the governor declared a state of emergency.
In reality, Nagin's advisers never intended to follow that plan -- and knew many residents would stay behind. "We always knew we did not have the means to evacuate the city," said Terry Ebbert, the sharp-tongued city director of emergency management...
The Newsweek article How Bush Blew It accuses our leader of having surrounded himself with sycophantic slags, among other sins:
...When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.
...this time "Rummy" opposed sending in active-duty troops as cops. Dick Cheney, who was vacationing in Wyoming when the storm hit, characteristically kept his counsel on videoconferences; his private advice is not known.
Liberals will say they were indifferent to the plight of poor African-Americans. It is true that Katrina laid bare society's massive neglect of its least fortunate....
Insert our standard Welfare State discussion here.
...But on Saturday night, as Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Nagin talked to Max Mayfield, head of the National Hurricane Center. "Max Mayfield has scared me to death," Nagin told City Councilwoman Cynthia Morrell early Sunday morning. "If you're scared, I'm scared," responded Morrell, and the mandatory order went out to evacuate the city-about a day later than for most other cities and counties along the Gulf Coast...
...At dusk [Monday Aug 29], on the ninth floor of city hall, the mayor and the city council had their first encounter with the federal government. A man in a blue FEMA windbreaker arrived to brief them on his helicopter flyover of the city. He seemed unfamiliar with the city's geography, but he did have a sense of urgency. "Water as far as the eye can see," he said. It was worse than Hurricanes Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969. "I need to call Washington," he said. "Do you have a conference-call line?" According to an aide to the mayor, he seemed a little taken aback when the answer was no. Long neglected in the city budget, communications within the New Orleans city government were poor, and eventually almost nonexistent when the batteries on the few old satellite phones died. The FEMA man found a phone, but he had trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally got someone on the line, the city officials kept hearing him say, "You don't understand, you don't understand."
This first encounter is also described in another article; if someone has the link please post it.
...At about 8 p.m. [Monday Aug 29], [Blanco] spoke to Bush. "Mr. President," she said, "we need your help. We need everything you've got."
Bush, the governor later recalled, was reassuring. But the conversation was all a little vague. Blanco did not specifically ask for a massive intervention by the active-duty military...
...There are a number of steps Bush could have taken, short of a full-scale federal takeover, like ordering the military to take over the pitiful and (by now) largely broken emergency communications system throughout the region. But the president, who was in San Diego preparing to give a speech the next day on the war in Iraq, went to bed...
Hit those talking points!
...By the predawn hours [of Tuesday Aug 30], most state and federal officials finally realized that the 17th Street Canal levee had been breached, and that the city was in serious trouble. Bush was told at 5 a.m. Pacific Coast time and immediately decided to cut his vacation short. To his senior advisers, living in the insular presidential bubble, the mere act of lopping off a couple of presidential vacation days counts as a major event. They could see pitfalls in sending Bush to New Orleans immediately. His presence would create a security nightmare and get in the way of the relief effort. Bush blithely proceeded with the rest of his schedule for the day, accepting a gift guitar at one event and pretending to riff like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business."
Of course, this is one of the things that the "liberals" have harped on, including faulting him for not rushing there immediately. Then, after he went there they harped on how the necessary security for his visit had delayed evacuations. Those wacky "liberals".
[...only "28 or 30" cops were available out of 120 who were summoned to the Second District...]
...New Orleans had no real evacuation plan, save to tell people to go to the Superdome and wait for buses. On Tuesday, the state was rounding up buses; no, FEMA was; no, FEMA's buses would take too long to get there ... and so on...
...Early Wednesday morning [Aug 31], Blanco tried to call Bush. She was transferred around the White House for a while until she ended up on the phone with Fran Townsend, the president's Homeland Security adviser, who tried to reassure her but did not have many specifics. Hours later, Blanco called back and insisted on speaking to the president. When he came on the line, the governor recalled, "I just asked him for help, 'whatever you have'." She asked for 40,000 troops. "I just pulled a number out of the sky," she later told NEWSWEEK.
Clearly, she was in very very far over her head.
The Pentagon was not sitting idly. By Tuesday morning (and even before the storm) the military was moving supplies, ships, boats, helicopters and troops toward the Gulf Coast. But, ironically, the scale of the effort slowed it. TV viewers had difficulty understanding why TV crews seemed to move in and out of New Orleans while the military was nowhere to be seen. But a TV crew is five people in an RV. Before the military can send in convoys of trucks, it has to clear broken and flooded highways. The military took over the shattered New Orleans airport for emergency airlifts, but special teams of Air Force operators had to be sent in to make it ready. By the week after the storm, the military had mobilized some 70,000 troops and hundreds of helicopters-but it took at least two days and usually four and five to get them into the disaster area. Looters and well-armed gangs, like TV crews, moved faster.
Yet another "liberal" talking point, including something that Nagin said over and over, was that we could send all this aid to tsunami victims, but we can't immediately send in the military. The preceding paragraph does help explain why.
In the inner councils of the Bush administration, there was some talk of gingerly pushing aside the overwhelmed "first responders," the state and local emergency forces, and sending in active-duty troops. But under an 1868 law, federal troops are not allowed to get involved in local law enforcement. The president, it's true, could have invoked the Insurrections Act, the so-called Riot Act. But Rumsfeld's aides say the secretary of Defense was leery of sending in 19-year-old soldiers trained to shoot people in combat to play policemen in an American city, and he believed that National Guardsmen trained as MPs were on the way.
...Once a kind of petty-cash drawer for congressmen to quickly hand out aid after floods and storms, FEMA had improved in the 1990s in the Clinton administration...
Everything improved on Bubba's watch!
...Bush likes "metrics," numbers to measure performance, so the bureaucrats gave him reassuring statistics. At a press availability on Wednesday, Bush duly rattled them off: there were 400 trucks transporting 5.4 million meals and 13.4 million liters of water along with 3.4 million pounds of ice. Yet it was obvious to anyone watching TV that New Orleans had turned into a Third World hellhole.
The denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved." Governor Blanco was there, along with various congressmen and senators and Mayor Nagin (who took advantage of the opportunity to take a shower aboard the plane). One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."
If true, that would tend to place Bush in a somewhat better light than our "liberal" friends have painted him.
According to Sen. David Vitter, a Republican ally of Bush's, the meeting came to a head when Mayor Nagin blew up during a fraught discussion of "who's in charge?" Nagin slammed his hand down on the table and told Bush, "We just need to cut through this and do what it takes to have a more-controlled command structure. If that means federalizing it, let's do it."
A debate over "federalizing" the National Guard had been rattling in Washington for the previous three days. Normally, the Guard is under the control of the state governor, but the Feds can take over-if the governor asks them to. Nagin suggested that Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the Pentagon's on-scene commander, be put in charge. According to Senator Vitter, Bush turned to Governor Blanco and said, "Well, what do you think of that, Governor?" Blanco told Bush, "I'd rather talk to you about that privately." To which Nagin responded, "Well, why don't you do that now?"
The meeting broke up. Bush and Blanco disappeared to talk. More than a week later, there was still no agreement. Blanco didn't want to give up her authority, and Bush didn't press...
Well, I guess that's not a good appraisal of Blanco's leadership abilities then.
Some of the claims in this article are countered here, and please leave more in the comments.
"Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane... And it's because this administration and administrations before them do not understand the difficulties that mayors . . . face... In other words, this administration did not believe in mass transit. They won't even get people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out..."
Asked to criticize Nagin or others, she responded:
"Because the mayor evacuated the city, we had the best evacuation . . . of any evacuation I've seen. I'm 50 years old; I've never seen one any better."
That prompted FNS host Chris Wallace to remind: "But there were a hundred thousand people left in the city."
Landrieu once again blamed the White House, saying:
"They did [have] a hundred thousand people left in the city because this federal government won't support cities to evacuate people, whether it's from earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes. And that's the truth."
Drudge played an excerpt from a Howard Dean appearance on Wolf Blitzer's show, during which Dean blamed FEMA for not knowing that the Convention Center was used as a shelter.
However, Drudge then played a tape of Ray Nagin in which he said that only the Superdome was being used as a shelter, and he had no plans to open other shelters. That interview was from August 28 and was done before 6pm on that date (because he mentioned the upcoming curfew), but the exact source is not yet known.
...New Orleans is a near textbook example of that neglect and leadership disconnect. In the months before New Orleans's current black mayor Richard Nagin [sic], a former corporate communications executive, slammed Bush and the feds for their glacial response to Katrina, he drew fire from anti-poverty activists and some black residents for being snuggling up to close to business interests, while ignoring the poor. Nagin was hardly the first black official to take heat for the plight of the city's poor. For the past three decades, blacks have had near unbroken control of city government in New Orleans. They've controlled city hall, and had black majorities on the school board, and the city council. The police chief, and the District Attorney are black. During their tenure, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, the Casinos, and tourism, have boomed. Large parts of the city have become gentrified, downtown business interests have grown richer, and black businesspersons and professionals especially those with close ties to the black establishment at City Hall have done well. City officials have been hammered with accusations of cronyism, patronage, and influence peddling...
NOLA conducted a long interview with Ray Nagin, and here's part of it:
...[Nagin says] he may have made some mistakes but said that he hopes others in positions of authority - including President George W. Bush and Gov. Kathleen Blanco -- are scrutinized as closely as he and his staff have been.
"I'm not pointing any fingers at anyone," Nagin said. "But I was in the fire. I was down there. Where were they? I'm confident the truth is gonna come out. But I want everybody's record analyzed just as hard as mine.
"Listen, this was unprecedented. Nothing has ever happened like this. For people to sit back and say, 'You should have done this, you should have done that' Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ it's Monday morning quarterbacking. They can shoot if they want, but I was there, and I will have the facts."
Nagin's biggest frustration, and his biggest source of puzzlement, is the slow pace with which relief arrived. He said state and federal officials made repeated promises that weren't kept.
"This is ridiculous," he said. "I mean, this is America. How can we have a state with an $18 billion budget and a federal government with an I don't know how many trillion dollar budget, and they can't get a few thousand people onto buses? I don't get that.
"All I saw was a huge two-step, if you will, between the federal government and the state as far as who had the final authority. Promises made that weren't really kept. It was frustrating. We'd analyze things, double-check them, and then, later in the afternoon, we'd find out that someone was changing the plan, moving resources around."
Some officials at the state and federal level have suggested that part of the reason for the slow response was a lack of awareness about the level of devastation the city had suffered. They have faulted city officials for not sending out a stronger SOS.
While Nagin has previously said he didn't think the slow response was related to the demographic of the overwhelmingly poor, African-American crowd that needed rescuing, his thinking has evolved.
"Definitely class, and the more I think about it, definitely race played into this," he said. "How do you treat people that just want to walk across the bridge and get out, and they're turned away, because you can't come to a certain parish? How do resources get stacked up outside the city of New Orleans and they don't make their way in? How do you not bring one piece of ice?
"If it's race, fine, let's call a spade a spade, a diamond a diamond. We can never let this happen again. Even if you hate black people and you are in a leadership position, this did not help anybody."
As hearings on the Katrina response start to crank up in Washington, Nagin said, those questions, among others, need to be asked.
" I think the government ought to be asking itself, 'What happened to the resources?
Why were people promised resources and they didn't show up? Where were the military resources? Where was the National Guard? Why were we left with a city on the verge of collapse, fighting for the soul of the city, with 200 National Guardsmen and 1,200 police?