the Response to Katrina
By Alan Nathan
September 22, 2005
Republicans' rejection of an independent commission investigating
the response to Hurricane Katrina is like a
condemned man hanging up on the governor calling with a stay
of execution. The commission would obviously find the feds
rightly culpable for numerously glaring screw-ups, but it
would also expose state and local foul-ups coupled with a
history of national bipartisan complicity.
most illustrative of President Bush's failures was allowing
then-FEMA chief Mike Brown to remain employed one second
after acknowledging on ABC that
he had been impervious to the toxic and hellishly crime-ravaged New Orleans
Superdome a day and half after the world had already
witnessed it on television. It was
to be a makeshift shelter, but devolved into an accelerant for misery. If he
and his people were so incomparably devoid of this basic information, it's
more than reasonable to deduce that such incompetence
had a trickle down impact harming
addition to revelations about the administration, a commission
would also uncover truths about the missteps of Louisiana's
Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New
Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin. We should know why Mrs. Blanco refused to grant
Mr. Bush permission to move in federal forces a full
two days after he made the
request. Democrats had strangely criticized Mr. Bush for failing to use an
does not possess. Barring insurrection, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 pre-empts
the president from moving unilaterally on any state without that state's
governor giving the green light.
commission could also ask Mr. Nagin why hundreds of parked
buses reserved for evacuating the needy of his city were
left unused and eventually submerged.
When asked by NBC's Tim Russert what he thought might have been his own
biggest mistake, Mr. Nagin said it was "believing that FEMA was up to the task." Boy,
nothing like taking it on the chin!
focus could be revisited upon lost opportunities from
days of old. There have been useful in-depth studies
attached to possible solutions
flooding in the Delta region. In 1991 there was one called "The Green House
Effect and Sea Level Rise: The Cost of Holding Back the Sea," which unfortunately
put wetlands before people but still had incredibly valuable research. In 1998
there was "Coast 2050," which rationally combined the otherwise
quarrelsome interests of scientists, engineers, environmentalists and
in a way to revitalize the Delta while protecting communities from flooding.
Unfortunately, Louisiana politicians along with Republicans and Democrats
in Congress inexcusably dropped the effort.
commission might also inquire about why in 1998 Louisiana's
$2 billion construction budget allocated only one-tenth
of 1 percent on levee refortification.
unbridled passion we should hold the feds answerable
for their calamitous response because it has resulted
in lost lives. However,
that fact cannot
be used as camouflage for concealing local, state and national dual
for many of those same deaths.
Our goal is to expose all who are accountable so as to ensure the
future safety of our citizens. But if it's embarked upon through
prism, via Congress
or the press, then half of the guilty will escape scrutiny and remain
in jobs that permit them to replicate the same mistakes. Perhaps
our party's team, we should choose the home team.
introspective thinking happened recently on my show when
conservative Republican Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas
stated that the president
had shown a lack of leadership
on Katrina, while liberal Democrat Rep. Albert Wynn of Maryland
argued that the politicos in Louisiana were perhaps even
for the debacle.
I loathe special commissions because I don't like congressional
leaders farming out responsibilities for which we hire them to
perform through the
ballot box. I especially don't like 50/50 committees when you
have a 55/45 divide in
Congress because that artificially gives a power to the minority
it was unable to garner through that same ballot box. By consequence,
the per-capita vote of other citizens just because they had the
bad luck of belonging to the majority.
when you weigh that against the competing interest of
ensuring that the investigation of a national disaster is not
seen as politically
the choice becomes self-evident.