Sorry, Podhoretz, but you can’t have it both ways: Last week, the White House et al were complaining that local officials in New Orleans didn’t yell loud enough soon enough to demand help and that’s why the federal response was slow. Now John says the locals yelled and begged too much:
But I submit the cause of the panic wasn’t simply the unprecedented horror we were witnessing. It also grew out of the shockingly irresponsible conduct of local and state elected officials.
Now, I’m not talking here about the failure of the mayor of New Orleans to deploy a bunch of schoolbuses to help evacuate the town, or whether the evacuation plan was followed and when states of emergency were announced.
The federal government has taken the brunt of the public criticism for seeming out of touch and uncomprehending in those first few days. But what Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco did and didn’t do was worse. They consciously and deliberately assumed an attitude of powerlessness and hopelessness in the face of New Orleans’ woes that directly contributed to the lawlessness, chaos and disorder.
And The Post editorial tries to — how shall I put this? — exploit the undead by saying, well, of only hundreds, not thousands, died then, gosh, it wasn’t so bad after all, was it? The full story of Hurricane Katrina is beginning to emerge, and turning out differently than the unmitigated disaster the early, oft-hysterical, reporting led America to expect.
And not just in terms of the death toll, now certainly to be far below the thousands predicted by a panicked New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
It’s also clear that indictments of President Bush for failing to provide effective relief were wrong, too.
Or perhaps you could say that the evacuation by local officials was more effective than the national officials said.
But I won’t make either statement. Both are off.
This was a disaster. An American city was destroyed. People were left for too long without water, food, security, and rescue. Dozens of dead old people were taken out of a hospital yesterday. Efforts to minimize this — by any side — are tasteless, dishonest, and irresponsible.
Both sides need to admit that both sides screwed up. Everyone has to give the dead the respect of saying that they should not have died. Everyone should admit that they don’t know what the hell comes next. And everyone — whether you’re attacking or defending Bush or Nagin or Blanco — should concentrate on learning lessons, not glossing over them.