Thursday, September 08, 2005

OP ED: The perfect (political) storm?

Democrats have not been faring to well these days. Katrina, however, has been the “perfect storm” for them. It represents the convergence of factors that they believe will create a category 5 public opinion hurricane that will find landfall on the south lawn of the White House.

It is a natural for the donkey party’s strident partisanship, and they are piling on. In addition to the not-so-loyal opposition in Congress, the “Bushwhackers” have the benefit of the Democrat Louisiana governor and a New Orleans mayor -- joining the partisan chorus to cover up their own culpabilities. Add to the mix pandering media magnets like Jesse Jackson, an overwhelmingly Democrat victim group, and the inestimable benefit of a largely biased national news media, and it is no wonder the Hurricane Blame is bearing down on federal (Republican) administration. Unfortunately, this will do no good for victims, current and future. It only deflects from a truly critical look at what might be done better.

There are many others failures to explore.

For example, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is quick to rant about FEMA, but the high loss of life among the poor was arguably caused by his failure to provide means for the poor to evacuate after he issued the order. At that point, poor people without cars or means to pay for transportation (with very little available), were literally stranded. Mayor Nagin failed to call in state and federal transportation resources, provide municipal vehicles or coordinate private resources before the levees broke and the roadways were unusable. His lack of appreciation for the problem, and absence of foresight, doomed thousands of his poorest constituents to misery and death.

For her part, Governor Kathleen Blanco was slow to authorize needed resources. There was delay in making the request for specific federal assistance, and reluctance to agree to federal authority – both prerequisites to federal intervention. It did not appear that the state and city were coordinating efforts very effectively.

In fairness, it must be recognized that Katrina was unprecedented. Personally, I believe most everyone, including Blanco and Nagin, gave the situation his or her best efforts. I do not believe racism was involved or elitist disinterest. Such accusations are as sinister and self-serving as they are dishonest. There may have been shortcomings, as will happen in any event that exceeds expectations. This does not automatically translate to evil intent or heartless disregard.

The commission to any investigation should be to look at the process from top to bottom, not just the national response. Many of the tragic failures occurred at lower levels, and these should not be ignored by partisan interests.

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