There is so much so terribly wrong in this lead to today’s Washington Post report on the government scandal of New Orleans:
Tens of thousands of people spent a fifth day awaiting evacuation from this ruined city, as Bush administration officials blamed state and local authorities for what leaders at all levels have called a failure of the country’s emergency management….
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state’s emergency operations center said Saturday.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. “Quite frankly, if they’d been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals,” said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly….
Yesterday, Mayor Ray Nagin said he told the governor and the president to sit down and get their acts together. This is precisely what he meant. Note also that the mayor said he’d be happy to hand over authority to Gen. Russel Honore if that would get things done.
They should be ashamed of themselves. No one is in charge. And people are dying because of it.
: There is hard work and heroism everywhere. There is tragedy everywhere. And there is shame in too many places. Here‘s N.O. Mayor Nagin in the Nola.com breaking news blog:
Nagin’s ire began to rise anew as he recalled a foiled strategy to send able-bodied refugees over the Crescent City Connection to the high ground of the West Bank.
“We were taking in people from St. Bernard Parish,” he said. “If we had a bottle of water, we shared it. Then when we were going to let people cross the bridge, they were met with frigging dogs and guns at the Gretna parish line. They said, ‘We’re going to protect Jefferson Parish assets.’
“Some people value homes, cars and jewelry more than human life. The only escape route was cut off. They turned them back at the parish line.”
: It’s not just about politics and greed. It’s still about incompetence and bureacracy. Another Washington Post story asking what went wrong:
The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.
Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.
Among the flaws they cited: Failure to take the storm seriously before it hit and trigger the government’s highest level of response. Rebuffed offers of aid from the military, states and cities. An unfinished new plan meant to guide disaster response. And a slow bureaucracy that waited until late Tuesday to declare the catastrophe “an incident of national significance,” the new federal term meant to set off the broadest possible relief effort.
: The Post does have a great package today. Another explains why so many could not leave.
: Doc calls the Katrina Scandal the War on Error.