Eugene Robinson asks “Now what?” in today’s WaPo.
After a tragically incompetent beginning, the effort to give urgent care to the multitudes from New Orleans whose homes and livelihoods have been obliterated is finally in high gear. The problem now is that nobody knows where it’s headed.
At the top, things are still hopeless…
Across the Gulf region, cities not blasted by Katrina, are filled with evacuees. Texas and other neighboring states are looking others to help. Evacuees are being airlifted to every corner of the country. Robinson says, “Their host communities have the best of intentions, but many won’t be able to stand the added drain on resources indefinitely. Where will these people go? Why wasn’t there a plan?”
That’s when I start my finger-pointing, because a few days in and around this ground zero have convinced me that there are two things the federal government failed to do, and that for these failures there’s ultimately no one to blame but the president.
First, an administration that since Sept. 11, 2001, has told us a major terrorist strike is inevitable should have had in place a well-elaborated plan for evacuating a major American city. Even if there wasn’t a specific plan for New Orleans — although it was clear that a breach of the city’s levees was one of the likeliest natural catastrophes — there should have been a generic plan. George W. Bush told us time and again that our cities were threatened. Shouldn’t he have ordered up a plan to get people out?
Second, someone should have thought about what to do with hundreds of thousands of evacuees, both in the days after a disaster and in the long term. As people flooded out of New Orleans, it was officials at the state and local level who rose to the challenge, making it up as they went along. Bring a bunch of people to the Astrodome. We have a vacant hotel that we can use. Send a hundred or so down to our church and we’ll do the best we can.
Tent cities aren’t a happy option, but neither is haphazard improvisation. Is the problem the Bush administration’s ideological fervor for small government? Does the White House really believe that primary responsibility should fall on volunteers, church groups and individuals? Or is it just stunning incompetence and lack of foresight?
The White House Spin Team is feverously working to quell the damage caused by Bush’s slow response to the disaster and his inappropriate responses that include a “recollection Friday of his youthful partying in New Orleans.” A truly compassionate president, who claims to have a direct pipeline to God, would have done better to stand in the midst of the wreckage in New Orleans and say to it’s people, “But for the grace of God go I.” But as I said here days ago, this president knows he will never suffer what those in the Gulf have suffered, “he knows damn well he will never be in those circumstances!”
This president knows not compassion. Eugene Robinson is right, “there’s ultimately no one to blame but the president.”