Can’t have it both ways

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.

  • Thanks, Jeff, for evenhandedness. I think everyone is appalled to see different interest groups using a catastrophe to further particular viewpoints: from George Will on This Week claiming the problems stem from out-of-marriage childbirth … to an internet rabbi claiming it was divine returns on the administration support of Israel’s giving the Gaza Strip away.

    People died because relief forces bungled, ice and water sat in Tennessee while in NO people had nothing to drink or eat, stranded in the heat. Blame is not a game, it is time to learn from these horrendous mistakes.

  • Peter Boston

    While I agree that the blame game is distasteful and should be avoided it’s more difficult to suppress the visceral reaction to Mayor Nagin’s clamor for everybody to send busses to New Orleans while hundreds of school busses under Nagin’s control sat unused and underwater, or the visceral reaction to Governor Blanco’s order to prevent the Red Cross and Salvation Army from transporting food and water to the Superdome and Convention Center.

    Blaming everybody assigns responsibility to nobody. I object to being played the fool by New Orlean’s officials who abandoned the field under fire or by State officials who seemed to be driven more by consideration of political outcomes than duty to citizens.

  • Nagin and Bush seem to be getting along just fine now. Both have adopted a similarly contrite tone now that the waters are receding and the city appears to be more salvagable than previously feared:

    When questions turned to the broader controversies swirling around the hurricane and the government responses at every level, Nagin abandoned earlier belligerence in favor of a more diplomatic approach. He said he thinks President Bush, with whom he has twice toured the city, got “bad information” in the hours after the storm but since then has offered unequivocal support.

    Nagin conceded that officials at every level probably made mistakes.
    “In the final analysis, we could have all done things better,” he said, adding that, for his part, he would have reacted differently had he known significant federal help was not going to arrive for two or three days. In general, officials said, the problem was not a lack of will or alacrity, but the storm’s unsurpassed fury.

  • As far as the “blame game” is concerned, I don’t think asking for Michael Brown’s resignation was simple partisan politics. If FEMA had done its job in providing command and control in coordinating relief efforts before, during, and after Katrina hit, pretty much everyone else (local, State, and federal responders) would have been able to their jobs a hell of a lot more effectively, as Nagin noted in the above article.

    At the end of the day, it’s about communication. Bad intelligence = bad decision-making. There’s only so much room for Monday-morning quarterbacking if the guys in the booth are the ones responsible for calling bad plays… or no plays at all.

  • David

    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:

    The statements by Podhoretz are not precisely contradictory. It can logically be true that 1) local and state officials didn’t request federal help soon enough, and that 2) Blanco and Nagin appeared panicky and whiny and helpless in their public interviews. These are not mutually exclusive actions, thus Podhoretz is not trying to “have it both ways”–at least in this case.

    Efforts to minimize this — by any side — are tasteless, dishonest, and irresponsible.

    Since when is stating the true death toll, pointing out that it is far less than the predicted death toll, and expressing relief “minimizing” the disaster?

    Aside from questions about whether the federal government bears a large or small part of the responsibility for the disaster, this criticism of the Podhoretz column is based on some faulty premises.

  • Ravo

    The Federal Response was there in a timely manner. It was unusable….unable to reach those who needed it due to the unprecedented vicious spawn of thugs and crackheads …a situation that required military protection, – a protection that the politicking Governor refused to give permission to the Feds to supply.

    Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes that:

    “The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne.”

  • “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?”

    Well, yeah, Jeff, 400 isn’t as bad as 10,000. That’s not exploitation. There’s nothing wrong in saying that results weren’t as bad as feared and that indeed many citizens and public institutions performed very well. However, when all the facts are collected, the worst performers were Nagin and Blanco and Landreneau. You can’t improve something if you can’t name what needs to be improved.

  • Katie

    Andrew Sullivan links to the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards drawing the wrong conclusions from having observed our media.
    “The mismanagement and the mishandling of the acute psychological problems brought about by Hurricane Katrina clearly showed that others can, at any given time, create a devastated war-zone in any part of the U.S.”, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, the official spokesman of the IRGC, said. These guys aren’t paying attention to what we are doing right because it’s not being reported.

    I wish I could say that most American understand how a disaster unfolds, have realistic expectations as to timeliness of assistance and when push comes to shoves, have faith that we will marshal our resources and pull it together. I say “wish” because I’ve been arguing with friends who genuinely believe Bush is Evil. (I’m in VT.)

    (Please bring back preview!)

  • Fiona

    Could we all remember that this was a NATURAL disaster of incredible proportions. Nobody is to blame for that part of it. It was going to happen no matter who was in the White House, Baton Rouge or the Mayor’s office. Katrina as a Category One Hurricane killed 11 people in Florida. The response in Mississippi, like the one in Florida the year before, was not being criticised in the same way that this one was becase all actors functioned as intended. The difference in NO was the entirely predictable flooding and failures at the local level – in a big way. I will fault the media for all the attention to NO – We have friends in Biloxi and it was frustrating to get replays of the casinos on the beach time after time. I observed some media correspondents blithely passing on rumors without any checking – and I was not the only one. I have been hearing one clarification after another for the past week, on the order of 10000 dead – no 1000 dead, no, maybe not. We also find, contrary to TV reporters, that some people took care of themselves and their neighbors without government help – as we would have hoped as Americans that we would. Bur we only got to listen to the whiners wanting to know why some one didn’t do something NOW.

  • Matt Bruce

    This post sounds so reasonable, yet it’s quite wrong.

    First, the “can’t have it both ways” inaccurately treats Podheretz and the White House as the same entity.

    More importantly, though, there’s a big difference between what you communicate privately to your colleagues and what you announce to the public. In a disaster situation, it’s plausible to tell the masses that everything is under control while behind the scenes frantically begging for assistance. It’s not plausible to do it the other way around, and certainly neither sane nor effective. Podheretz seems to be accusing Nagin et al of doing it the other way around. That accusation may not be entirely accurate (for all I know), though it does fit what we’ve deserved and certainly isn’t “having it both ways.”

  • kent schmidt

    It should be noted that whatever number of those who died those that stayed in their homes because that’s what they’d always done, or because previous storms wern’t cataclysmic, were beyond the responsibility of any level of government. Some people simply make bad choices.

  • Robert Swaim

    Well written Mr. Jarvis, well responded to by all posting. I have only one request of those who have posted so reasonably and articulately, go to the website The Political Teen and watch the video on Governor Blanco and then advise me if I am being unreasonable because I’m still disturbed by the failures of Nagin and Blanco. My post is in no way an attempt to rekindle a debate on any level, but like Mr. Jarvis I am not consoled by hundreds not thousands dead. And other than President Bush’s statement I have heard none of the other responsible parties take ownership for their actions, or lack of.

  • Faramin

    “Taking responsibility” must have some real meaning and consequences

    Everyday now, more bodies are being found in the hurricane hit Louisiana and Mississippi states. I realize that with a hurricane with the magnitude of Katrina some deaths might have been unavoidable but, I am also sure if it wasn’t for the incompetence of the Bush administration in properly responding to the urgency of aid and rescue requirements, many lives could have been saved.

    George Bush has now “accepted” the responsibility of the failure in properly responding to the disaster. I wonder what, in his paralyzed mind, does he think about this “taking responsibility”. I wonder what it means to him. That, he can claim to be honest and courageous for doing this? Or what? really!

    This is not the first time he and his big-business-dedicated friends have failed. Regardless of how we see the invasion of Iraq, there is one fact that is almost agreed by all and that is the fact that the US leaders, as the invaders of an independent country, had no plan to prevent chaos immediately after the fall of Baghdad. A chaos that to day is still continuing. This has cost lives; significant number of lives.

    As I said, “taking responsibility” is not good enough. What next? What has to happen to the one/s who failed miserably in doing their job? What is the consequence of such failures? The failures which have resulted in the death of people. Are they not negligence? Yes, they are. In my opinion, they are negligence causing death in large magnitudes; they are criminal negligence and should be treated as such. And… Bush and his gang must be held accountable to that standard.

  • EverKarl


    One might almost take that seriously if we didn’t already know you held the same opinion before the hurricane.

    Wars and natural disasters accompanied by chaos? How could this have happened?

  • Faramin

    absolutely Everkarl! Hurricane just exposed more. Arrogance and incompetence of the Bush Adminsitration is nothing new, regardless of how you see it.

  • Mark B.

    A minor note –

    Before everyone gets too cozy and reassured about the “true” death toll from Katrina, might I point out that we still have no idea what that toll is? The body recovery process is in its early stages and has so far been marked by the same sort of conflicts and inadequate organization that marked the relief and rescue efforts. Half of the city is still flooded, and the Times-Picayune is still full of pathetic pleas from people looking for the bodies of their loved ones.

    Quote – “It’s [body recovery and identification] going to take months, maybe years,” said Dr. Louis Cataldi, the coroner for Baton Rouge Parish. “This is not going away.” – Times-Picayune, September 14, 2005

  • Eileen

    Re the troll named Faramin, who doesn’t even link to his own blog: hilarious! Here it is:

    Whenever the words ‘criminal negligence/Bush/gang’ (and a few others) coalesce in the same post around here you could be blindfolded and know ‘he’s baa-ack’. He is a self described Iranian living in Canada (note the name of his blog), and he wrote this yesterday, pretending to be an American speaking against Israel and Joos, his sworn enemies (kind of like AQ taqiyya talkers do):

    “That’s not what you (Israel) were saying when you took all that money from *us*, now totaling more than four times the entire cost of the Apollo Moon program. I have no problem if Israel wants to think of the US as their enemy. [Heehaa!] All I ask is a refund of all the money poured into Israel for the last half-century, and for Israel to send back all those weapons *we* gave them. Because frankly I have had it with Israel buying *our* politicians with *our* own money, spying on *us*, tricking *us* into their wars,…” Emphasis added, who could resist?

    Well, you get the gist.

  • Andy Freeman

    > If FEMA had done its job in providing command and control in coordinating relief efforts before

    Why is FEMA responsible for coordinating NO and LA’s resources?

  • owl 1

    Well, I am still furious over how this thing was handled, by all. My order now is:

    1. Exempt Media
    2. Mayor
    3. LA Gov
    4. All LA officials including heads of LA Homeland S, Nat Guard…..all
    5. Fed FEMA
    6. Fed Homeland Security
    7. Lawyers
    8. President

    After reading everything I can lay my hands on, I still say a little bit of common horse sense at the State level could have changed this entire picture.

    Greg B, if you out there, you sent me off on wild goose chase last time. You said Gov Blanco asked for 455 buses from FEMA on 8/31. I have discovered she said in an interview w/GMA on 8/31 “We’ve sent buses in. We will load by boat, helicopter, whatever…”. She said the first job is search and rescue. She also said she wanted the Dome evacuated within 2 days. All this on 8/31. Sept 1, 12.30 AM evacuees from Dome begin arriving in Houston. FEMA buses had arrived. She asks prez for troops and says less than 2400 in Dome. Enuff.

    That’s the reason I point at the Exempt Media. They never gave us any facts, only emotions that did not help one person escape those hellholes. It was Sept 1 before the Times-Picyune even mentions the convention center and how do they do it? In an open letter to blame the president.

    The most reasonable comment I have read is above by Fiona. My God, you trying to tell me this diaster happened to other people Fiona besides NO and La Gov? Didn’t you know that Bush created this FOUR state Cat 5 storm just to trap poor blacks? He and the Feds should ignore those other THREE states, the media did. Other 3 somehow did not remain helpless in a crisis and provide them with their flavor of the month, Bush Stick.

    Yes, JJ’s post is very even handed for a Democrat. That current honor must have a mellowing effect?

  • Finally!!!

    Posts from people who can see what is ACTUALLY happening! Gives me hope that there are people on here that are not just America hating Democrats.

  • Locomotive Breath

    Not one single soul. That’s how many the city and state authorities evacuated. Any other evacuation was accomplished by private means. The federal response was not perfect but there is no excuse for the city and state authorities failures. If blame there must be, the main blame lies there.

  • Faramin

    and he wrote this yesterday, pretending to be an American speaking against Israel and Joos, his sworn enemies (kind of like AQ taqiyya talkers do):

    Ouch. I feel the pain of a big bite on my a** again.
    Oh brilliant brilliant Eileen. You “exposed” me again. I wish I had the same “brilliant” 007 “inteligence” as yours.

    Obviously I’m being sarcastic. How could it not be sarcasim? I’m calling you brilliant and… . Yeah, don’t get excited. It was just a joke.

    Listen, any dumb idiot can distinguish between quoting from others and having the words of own, especially, if the quoted part is in differenet font style (italic) unlike non-quoted ones. And especially if the quoted parts have the same style on all other posts and are also on “blockquote”. And again, especially when there is a link right after the quote stating “Found at (the link)” where the readers can link to and see the exact quote.

    I told you before Eileen. Don’t even try to compete with me. I know how hard for a racist for you is to accept that an Iranian is hundreds of time smarter than you. And well, yes, I am. Now cry. I only consider you an entertainment. Not a very pleasant one though, especially since you call and complain to CIA about the ones who embarrass you EVERY TIME. In fact, it is you who embarresses you every time. Silence is the best medicine for you. By the way, who has been your new “victim” recently? Did you call CIA or FBI to complain that a “terrorist on the net made me cry”.

    Anyway, please for once use your low density brain to understand that it just doesn’t make sense that the person who has the word IRANIAN in the title of his blog, would try to pretend to be an American. After all, unlike you, most people can actually think. So, shshsh.

    By the way, I wish instead of your regular BS, you could at least try to address the points that I’ve been making in my comment. Probabely you wouldn’t have much to say anyway, but at least you would get the credit for trying.

  • Eileen

    I expected your babbling reply. No surprise.

  • Faramin

    An apology for the mis-information you provided would have been much more “honorable” than BSing Eileen. But then again, honorable actions come from honorable people, which obviously does not include you.

  • Eileen

    Actually, Faramin, I stopped reading your garbage at the end of the quote I provided. So, my bad. Now, how do you explain your *we* in your first post above?

    “This is not the first time he and his big-business-dedicated friends have failed. Regardless of how *we* see the invasion of Iraq,..”

  • Faramin

    Not my fault if you have difficulty with your own language or is it only your lack of common sense?

    Obviously “we” there refers to every individaul who might have different opinion about the invasion of Iraq. I think even any slow minded individual can see that. You don’t seem to be qualified even for that category.

    So what? what else your 007 mentality have found to expose about me to show how a “liar” I am? Please in the name of humanity, stop making a fool of yourself further than you have done already. After all, you too are a human, not an honest one and not an intelligent one, though, but still human.

  • Eileen

    Your toxicity speaks for itself, Faramin.

    Thank God you aren’t a member of *we Americans*, as you like to intimate.

  • Faramin

    If YOU are a typical American (that I hope and I know it’s not the case), then I’d rather to be anything disgraceful that you can think of, but an “American”.

    However, I’m extremely glad that the digraces such as you are increasingly isolated and rejected by increasing number of respectable Americans. Arrogant people like you do not serve America. You and people like you are the worst enemies of America, by being the symbols of arrogance, selfishness, and idiocy. You bring nothing for America, but hatred and you are not even intelligent enough to realize that. There are millions of respectable Americans who reject you and your type the same way I do. And yes, I AM PROUDLY PART of THAT “WE” who is part of the global community without a border. YOU are the one who does not belong to that group as there is nothing common between you and many of them, but perhaps a common country of birth.

    But please, don’t hate me because I am better, smarter and more human than you. It’s not difficult to beat you on that; believe me. Now! Jump up and down.

  • Superwoody

    Jees, sounds like Eileen might have touched a nerve …

  • Faramin

    Yeah Woody,

    You need to make 180 degree turn from head down to up to see the world in its real shape.

    But nice try anyway. She indeed needs some help from her alike. Somebody who can fill in for kat. She wasn’t smart either.

    But remember 0+0 is still 0. So, good luck ;-)

  • Superwoody

    “You need to make 180 degree turn from head down to up to see the world in its real shape.”

    Nope, that’s OK. I’ll go on seeing things as they really are and not with all the negative spin that all you hate spirited libs/non-AMERICANS do. And, I’m sure you think your smarter than me, all liberals do, but you thinking it doesn’t make it so.

    I just can’t for the life of me understand how democrats with your mind-set can call themselves Americans. All you that claim, “I AM PROUDLY PART of THAT “WE” who is part of the global community without a border.”, are only trying to destroy the US and bring it down to levels of other countries that aren’t happy unless there is civil wars and unrest everywhere.

    Go on with your ego-pumping-drivel about how superior your intellect is and I’ll just sit back in incredulity!

  • Faramin


    I’ll go on seeing things as they really are
    Yeah, your judgment about Eileen and I showed how “successful” you are in seeing things as they are.

    You can continue sitting back and waiting. You won’t hear much from me. After all, you haven’t presented anything that deservs a reply anyway. I presented an argument, but all I’ve heard was “bad Faramin”, “hate spirited Faramin” and … oh, I’m hurt. None of your likeminded people have said anything to dismiss what I’ve said with, at least, an attempt to reason.

    I am not American and I’m not Democrat. And it is not me and my type who want to destroy the US. I have no anymosisty with the US. I just believe the current leaders of the US are bunch of international criminals. In fact, it is those who have supported an idiot and his rich gang who are ruling their country; YOU are the ones who are destroying your country. You just want to blaim it on others.

  • Faramin

    Oh BTW, the claim of superior your intellect was only a “successful” attempt to humiliate those who have always shown their arrogance and their anti-democratic attitude; otherwise, I would not go into that direction if there was a decent dialogue in place.

    How else would you treat a person who refers you to the CIA and FBI for being against her opinion? Yes, with all the rediculness and stupidity of the nature of this action, her little non-functional brain has made her to so more than once.