September 5, 2005


Top federal officials left out of loop (Audrey Hudson, September 5, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

State and local officials did not inform top federal officials early on of the deaths and lack of food among hurricane victims in the Superdome or convention center, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday.

Mr. Chertoff said neither he nor Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown was told of the deteriorating situation in New Orleans until Thursday night.

"This is clearly something that was disturbing. It was disturbing to me when I learned about it, which came as a surprise. You know, the very day that this emerged in the press, I was on a video conference with all the officials, including state and local officials. And nobody, none of the state and local officials or anybody else was talking about a convention center," Mr. Chertoff told CNN.

"The original plan, as I understand it, was to have the Superdome be the place of refuge, of last resort. Apparently, sometime on Wednesday, people started to go to the convention center spontaneously," he said.

Mr. Chertoff also said he was not informed until hours after the levee burst Monday night that a second wave of water had drowned the city.

"It was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to drain into the city," Mr. Chertoff told NBC's "Meet the Press."

New Orleans had no Rudy Giuliani.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 5, 2005 8:09 AM

Doing the right thing by going on the offensive and staying there.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 5, 2005 10:02 AM

FEMA's fault here is that there's no way they couldn't know what a bunch of charlitans, grifters and incompetents have run Louisiana for the past 75 years, especially with Bush and Brown both hailing from neighboring Texas.

You can't come out and say that in public before the fact, but they should have been privately aware of the liklihood that New Orleans and Louisana's emergency management system couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time -- the state's EMS plans appears to be that in a crisis situation, Gov. Blanco will cry repeatedly. Knowing that they wouldn't get what they needed through the normal channels, contigency measures should have been in place.

Posted by: John at September 5, 2005 10:03 AM

There obviously has been a lot of fighting on the blogs and MSM over who is to blame for the situation in NO. The post and comments yesterday are a good example. Two points:

1. With evidence growing (like this article) that NO and LA politicians were overwhelmed at the task you are starting to see a shift in MSM criticism from Bush screwed up to Bush should have run over the NO mayor and LA governor and taken over sooner.

2. The MSM had plenty of footage where a reporter would helicopter in to people needing help, interview them, and then leave them there. Why hasn't the MSM helped get people to safety?

Posted by: AWW at September 5, 2005 10:07 AM

John is saying what I mentioned in my point #1. Hindsight is 20-20. Also as discussed yesterday there were legal/political issues preventing Bush from just taking over. Go back and read the post yesterday which talks about Blanco resisting Bush's attemtps to take over - perhaps Bush did know but couldn't do anything about it.

Posted by: AWW at September 5, 2005 10:10 AM


You think the media is going to help a large group of poor, inner-city residents? NO WAY. They want deprivation, chanting, and squalor.

I didn't watch much of the news (I was in a 3-day conference last week), but I saw only two instances of media help - both cases involved giving water to people with children. Other than that, it was film the rage and insanity, and move on.

Even Shepard Smith's reporting went cuckoo when he began pointing at bodies as if they were totems or meteorites. I'm sure if he had ventured off the bridge, he would have been able to find hundreds more.

The theme of Bush as dictator (and not quickly enough) is already marching through even the lefty blogs. Expect 'government' experts like George Stephanopoulas and others to say that a benevolent leader like Bill Clinton could (and would) have taken over all the responsibilities, with grateful hosannas from the locals.

Posted by: ratbert at September 5, 2005 10:18 AM

You people are such ready marks for liars. The conservative noise machine only started saying "State and local officials did not inform top federal officials" after the White House told them to say that.

Confront, for once, the EVIDENCE.

Rep. Charles Boostany quoted three days ago:
Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., (R-La.), said he spent the past 48 hours urging the Bush administration to send help. "I started making calls and trying to impress upon the White House and others that something needed to be done," he said. "The state resources were being overwhelmed, and we needed direct federal assistance, command and control, and security -- all three of which are lacking." [WaPo, 9/1]

Boostany today, after the White House got its message together:

"most of the red tape and problems have been at the state level. I have to say that the federal response has been focused on new orleans with search and rescue operations which is going very, very well at this stage. but we've had a completely ineffectual state response and this is being borne by the local communities to help now. and I have asked the president to take this into consideration, consider that the state response is completely ineffectual and the full range of social and health care needs needs to be met."

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 1:46 PM

Rick: And your point is? Boostany is a federal official, NOT a state or local one.

Posted by: b at September 5, 2005 1:51 PM

My point it: if you'd been paying attention, you'd note that what Boostany originally said tracks exactly to what the officials on the ground, including Nagin and Blanco, were saying.

By the way, there were some conspiratorial whispers when Cheney was nowhere to be seen that they were covering up an illness. Now that he's show up in the Rose Garden, we know that the truth is far worse: there was nothing wrong with him. He just didn't want to interrupt his fishing trip.

Meanwhile, this question is for Orrin: why this fetishization of Giuliani? He hired Bernie Kerik, the most flagrantly corrupt police chief in NYC history. Remember the love nest he set up with 9/11 money, overlooking ground zero, in an apartment that was supposed to be for firefighters?

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 2:11 PM

Rick proves my point - the meme is now Bush should have known how incompetent/unprepared the local govt was and run over the NO mayor and LA governor to get things done, laws and US constitution be damned.

And the Cheney bashing just confirms the BDS.

Posted by: AWW at September 5, 2005 2:21 PM

Here's one source for the meme, to help you out in your investigations, AWW.

Should be about your speed.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 2:25 PM

So what happened to the real Rick Perlstein, and why is there some nasty troll impersonating him and trying to make him sound like he's capable of nothing more than cut-and-pasting the worst from DU, Koz and the Michigan Manatee? Is this a lingering aftereffect of the so-called upgrade to the comments system here?

A rational person stops reading when, in the first sentence of a posting, they are told they are stupid and gullible. Why bother to listen to such a person when they've shown they are no longer interested in pursuasion?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 5, 2005 2:51 PM

I am the real Rick Perlstein. My given name is "Eric" and my middle name is "Samuel." Look it up.

It's not difficult, people. I posted the 8/2[8] letter from Gov. Blanco and, I believe, the Naitonal Response Plan, which specifically states that once the federal declaration of emergency is made, the feds own the response.

Thus an earlier point: the bucks stops with the president.

You may not like this. But this is the black letter law.

You also might not think this SHOULD BE a national responsibility. But the rest of the world does think this--including the terrorists. They've just learned for the second time in the last three years--in Iraq and now in NO--that the Bush administration can't coordinate its way out of a paper bag. This is a national security issue--and I've yet to find a conservative who believes national security isn't a federal responsibility.

By the way, the latest news is that FEMA's deputy director (whose first job in "politics" was as Jeb Bush's driver) was off getting married in Greece, as the warnings about Katrina's unprecedented magnitude were coming down.

It just gets worse and worse.

About the degree of screwups by local politicians. We'll see when the evidence comes in. We have little idea what actually happened yet. The only evidence we do have now is documents--which prove federal responsibility past August 27--and public statements. And the public statements from the White House have been proven over and over and over and over--do you deny this?--to be lies. What lies have Blanco and Nagin been caught in (please ignore the inconvenient story in yesterday's Washington Post)?

Raoul, I've given up persuading. I'm like one of those people on the scene, bursting into tears on TV. Just trying to slap people into acting like human beings while I have their attention. This administration is deeply, deeply failed. Patriots like David Brooks--see his TV appearance Sunday--realize this. There's no shame in you realizing it too.

Posted by: Rick Persltein at September 5, 2005 3:04 PM

Rick, there's no doubt FEMA and the feds could have done better, BUT:

1) Disaster planning and recovery is primarily a state and local responsibility.

2) Louisiana, and New Orleans, has been run by Democrats since forever. N.O. has had black mayors since the '70s.

3) N.O. had a disaster plan that called for using city buses to evacuate residents who couldn't get out otherwise. The mayor didn't follow the plan.

So I fail to see how Bush (or Republicans or "racism") gets much, if any, responsibility for this.

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 5, 2005 3:07 PM

Papaya, why does the administration keep, demonstrably, lying? Is not at least telling the truth and not issuing attacks which serially are proven false (see the Washington Post correction yesterday) one responsibility of presidential leadership?

Look back to what Orrin posted from the Washington Times: "State and local officials did not inform top federal officials early on of the deaths and lack of food among hurricane victims in the Superdome or convention center, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday."

This only makes sense if Michael Chertoff did not own (1) a television; (2) an Internet connection; and--by the time he got around to acknowledging the convention center--(3) a newspaper!

Chertoff is saying the equivalent of: it was raining outside and I didn't look out the window to see that, but the governor didn't call me to say it was raining, so it's all the governor's fault I didn't know.

The BS gets thicker and thicker, and some conservatives--with more and more honorable exceptions, just not here--keep passing it on.

Why is disaster planning and recover a federal responsibility? Because THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION EXPLICTLY CHOSE TO MAKE IT SO in their drafting of their version of the DHS.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 3:19 PM


A planning paper can't change the Constitution.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 3:37 PM

You posted a letter that showed Blanco asked for help only after the president had begged her to.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 3:38 PM

Kerik is a scumbag. Rudy handled 9-11 about as well as anyone could have. Still, the response to it was a disaster in retrospect. That's how humanity and government work. You keep looking to government for your deities--they aren't there.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 3:40 PM

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."

Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.

Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."

In a Washington briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said one reason federal assets were not used more quickly was "because our constitutional system really places the primary authority in each state with the governor."

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 3:50 PM

The idea that a federal disaster declaration invalidates local and state disaster plans and absolves local and state administrators of local and state administrative responsibilities is so absurd on its face that only a leftist could possibly believe it.

Defense Department Briefing on Ongoing National Guard Response to Hurricane Katrina

Q: So is it fair to say it is the National Guard that's keeping law and order in New Orleans?
GEN. BLUM: No. As long as there's one uniformed police officer in the city of New Orleans, we will send as many National Guard soldiers to augment, support and work in support of that lone law enforcement officer as necessary. So if hypothetically there's only one left, who's in charge? It's still that lone police officer supported by the National Guard in their role as military support to law enforcement.

We are not in the lead. We have no need nor intention of imposing martial law or having the military police the United States of America.

Posted by: djs at September 5, 2005 4:14 PM

Mr. Perlstein wrote: "He hired Bernie Kerik, the most flagrantly corrupt police chief in NYC history. Remember the love nest he set up with 9/11 money, overlooking ground zero, in an apartment that was supposed to be for firefighters?"

Ah, the Democrats. I thought it was just about sex, merely personal and private, between him and hsi family only. And Kerik's lover was a full grown woman, over whom he had no power.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 5, 2005 5:05 PM

I think I'm in love with Gen. Blum.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 5, 2005 5:18 PM

Just so you all know, rather than arguing with the parts he finds wrong, Orrin is changing my posts.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 5:38 PM

More evidence that the notion that Bush whipped the sluggard relevant parties into action is a fantasy.

NorthCom's Lt. Commander Kelly:

"Northcom started planning before the storm even hit. We were ready when it hit Florida, because, as you remember, it hit the bottom part of Florida, and then we were planning once it was pointed towards the Gulf Coast.

"So, what we did, we activated what we call 'defense coordinating officers' to work with the states to say, 'OK, what do you think you will need?' And we set up staging bases that could be started.

"We had the USS Bataan sailing almost behind the hurricane so once the hurricane made landfall, its search and rescue helicopters could be available almost immediately So, we had things ready.

"The only caveat is: we have to wait until the president authorizes us to do so. The laws of the United States say that the military can't just act in this fashion; we have to wait for the president to give us permission."

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 5:45 PM

By the way, consumers of right-wing media might not be aware of some of the things Bush was doing while NorthCom awaited his authorization:

Terrorists see these pictures too, you know.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 5:48 PM


Yes, once the President got Ms Blanco to declare an emergency--in the letter of 8/28 that you reference--it was possible to get things going, though as the Post pointed out yesterday, she still refuses to hand over the requisite control because she's afraid of the political blame that's headed her way. She has dodged some blame, though at considerable cost to her state.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 5:52 PM


Yes, I corrected a few inaccuracies--for instance, you linked to a letter datelined 8/28/05 but refer repeatedly to a letter of the 27th. If you want to lie do it at a Leftwing site. Yoiu can rant here--that's harmless.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 5:53 PM


As to the pictures, do you folk on the Left really think it would be helpful for the President to either sit and fret soulfully durin g the whole period or pretend to be manning a command center of some kind? Is Jimmy Carter your model leader?

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 6:01 PM

My sincere apologies on getting the date wrong.

By the way, here's how things were handled by a strong leader even back in the time the Constitution in Exile movement wants to return to: San Francisco, 1906. The president now has no excuse.

The earthquake struck at 5:13 AM.

By 7 AM federal troops had reported to the mayor.

By 8 AM they were patrolling the entire downtown area and searching for survivors.

The second quake struck at 8:14 AM.

By 10:05 AM the USS Chicago was on its way from San Diego to San Francisco; by 10:30 the USS Preble had landed a medical team and set up an emergency hospital.

By 11 AM large parts of the city were on fire; troops continued to arrive throughout the day, evacuating people from the areas threatened by fire to emergency shelters and Golden Gate Park.

St. Mary's hospital was destroyed by the fire at 1 PM, with no loss of life, the staff and patients having already been evacuated across the bay to Oakland.

By 3 PM troops had shot several looters, and dynamited buildings to make a firebreak; by five they had buried dozens of corpses, the morgue and the police pistol range being unable to hold any more.

At 8:40 PM General Funston requested emergency housing - tents and shelters - from the War Department in Washington; all of the tents in the U.S. Army were on their way to San Francisco by 4:55 AM the next morning.

Prisoners were evacuated to Alcatraz, and by April 20 (two days after the earthquake) the USS Chicago had reached San Francisco, where it evacuated 20,000 refugees.

His source:
His source:

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 6:03 PM

What did she ask for in her letter?

When did the ships leave Norfolk?

From what I understand, when she did ask for NG help, the other states delayed because they didn't know if LA would need their help or not. The states control their guard units, but from what I read (on the net) the Navy is not under states' jurisdiction.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 5, 2005 6:10 PM


San Francisco burned for three days destroying 90% of the city and the immediate imposition of martial law, shoot to kill orders, and impressed labor were controversial even then. Had George W. Bush seized power from a Democratic Mayor and Governor who refused to turn it over and militarized the city you'd be bitching that he's a fascist. This is about your infantilism, not his actions.:

The calamitous San Francisco 1906 earthquake struck at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18. That morning, as aftershocks jarred and fires spread, an increasingly unnerved population started to panic. Hundreds massed at the Ferry Building in an attempt to escape the city. The tense disarray and lack of order stirred the growing crowds. A young man recalled, "On down the street we came across groups of men about whiskey and beer kegs drinking from cans, hollering, screaming, cursing in the most terrible manner." Another noted: "Throughout the whole day constant trouble had been experienced owing to a large number of drunks along the waterfront. The uncontrolled crowds rushed from saloon to saloon, looting the stocks and becoming intoxicated early in the day." Mobs raided saloons and refused to assist in the fire fighting efforts. As ensuing confusion accelerated, the Mayor's office received report after report of disorder and chaos.

San Francisco Mayor Eugene Schmitz quickly issued a bold proclamation to the city: "The Federal Troops, the members of the Regular Police Force and all Special Police Officers have been authorized by me to KILL any and all persons found engaged in Looting or in the Commission of Any Other Crime." Within two hours of the initial earthquake, Army troops were posted along Market Street, two men to a block, and Presidio troops marched into the city. To the traumatized residents of San Francisco, seeing soldiers in the streets posed both a comforting assurance and a troubling prospect. Schmitz's infamous edict authorized the U.S. Army to maintain order and protect property in the streets of an American city. However, the Mayor was not in a position of legal authority to order forces to shoot down citizens on command. The presence of military within the city enforced and undermined the city government's authority, but neither Schmitz nor General Funston advocated martial law.

Soldiers in San Francisco. Credit: Bob Bowen Collection
Soldiers rest by their gear in downtown San Francisco.
Credit: Bob Bowen Collection

In the confusion following the initial shock and subsequent aftershocks and fires, army troops maintained law and order, closed the saloons, and evacuated residents. They also investigated accounts of looting. By the second day, law enforcement included Army and Navy forces, as well as police forces, the California National Guard and various volunteer groups. Without an organized center of control, the various enforcers were each following and issuing different orders.

General Order No. 12, issued three days after the earthquake, divided the city into six military districts each under control of the five law enforcement divisions. The General Order further stated that all divisions were to conduct themselves in "temperate action in dealing with the unfortunate people who are suffering from the awful catastrophe that has befallen them." This warning was the response to citizen's reports of incidents regarding military misconduct. Citizens had complained of rash or unnecessary evacuations. One such occasion occurred along Polk Street where soldiers evacuated inhabitants "with bayonets fixed" several hours before the fire threatened the area. "There was abundant time to save many valuable articles which were by this time lost. I did not understand at the time, nor have I since been able to understand," recalled a resident. Witnesses reported the looting of homes by the soldiers before dynamiting. The California National Guard was the subject of headlines such as "Blame the Militia for Much Looting." In one instance, the 20th Infantry Regiment arrested National Guardsmen for looting while members of the 11th Infantry were arrested as they "tapped a barrel." Troops did carry out Schmitz's order to shoot and kill looters - even presumed looters. The reports of citizens shot as a result of the Mayor's Proclamation vary greatly, and range from one dozen up to one hundred. Brigadier General Funston, however, denied involvement of any regular Army troops and his immediate supervisor, Major General Greely, attributed these occurrences to other military units.
General Funston. Credit: Museum of the City of San Francisco

General Greely. Credit: Museum of the City of San Francisco
Brigadier General Funston

Major General Greely
Credit: Museum of the City of San Francisco

The police were given authority to "conscript manpower" for digging latrine ditches and organizing bread lines. But residents charged that Presidio soldiers forced them to clear streets or bury the dead, and that private automobiles were seized by the troops. The military, though, denied that they commandeered civilian "forced labor." A Navy midshipman recalls a detachment of Marines from Fort Mason assisting in "rounding up and impressing men to assist the fire fighters." Funston responded and issued a directive to city military district commanders. Whether it impressed civilian labor or not, the Army was equally disappointed in citizen contributions. Their reports note: "We received very little help from the real citizens, most of whom were engaged elsewhere looking after their own particular interests."

Aware of controversy over earlier actions by Funston to mobilize troops, conflicting reports about the behavior of the troops, and the inherent contentiousness of the army's role in the city, Greely advocated a withdrawal. In a request for army responsibilities to be transferred to local civil authorities and the Red Cross, Greely stated: "The spirit of American institutions is obviously adverse to the quartering of troops in times of peace in large cities." He was also very aware that while the soldiers had been reasonably well behaved, on July 1st the city's saloons were to reopen, inviting potential conflict for both military and civilians. On July 2nd, the U. S. Army troops pulled out of the city of San Francisco.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 6:16 PM

Besides, Mr. Perlstein, the NG and the military are not the same thing.

She wanted to handle it, can you imagine the brouhaha that this president who wants the little women in her place overrode her authority and sent in the military?

Not only would we have racism, we'd have sexism.

Blanco's no Evita.

She's handling it, she hired the former FEMA guy who's been involved in getting LA prepared for the past year or so.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 5, 2005 6:21 PM

It ain't me, babe. Just some straw lefty dude of your imagining.

You'll see when my next book comes out that I think the best thing that happened during the '60s riots was LBJ calling out the 82nd and the l01st.

Strong executive action is what every American has a right to expect in a crisis. And whose absence you insist on forgiving.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 6:30 PM

Here's more than enough blame to go around, too!

Via LGF:

Among the doctors stymied from helping out are 100 surgeons and paramedics in a state-of-the-art mobile hospital, developed with millions of tax dollars for just such emergencies, marooned in rural Mississippi.

"The bell was rung, the e-mails were sent off. ...We all got off work and deployed," said one of the frustrated surgeons, Dr. Preston "Chip" Rich of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"We have tried so hard to do the right thing. It took us 30 hours to get here," he said. That government officials can't straighten out the mess and get them assigned to a relief effort now that they're just a few miles away "is just mind-boggling," he said.

The North Carolina mobile hospital stranded in Mississippi was developed through the Office of Homeland Security after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. With capacity for 113 beds, it is designed to handle disasters and mass casualties.

Equipment includes ultrasound, digital radiology, satellite Internet, and a full pharmacy, enabling doctors to do most types of surgery in the field, including open-chest and abdominal operations.

It travels in a convoy that includes two 53-foot trailers, which as of Sunday afternoon was parked on a gravel lot 70 miles north of New Orleans because Louisiana officials for several days would not let them deploy to the flooded city, Rich said.

Yet plans to use the facility and its 100 health professionals were hatched days before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, doctors in the caravan said....

Posted by: Sandy P at September 5, 2005 6:31 PM


Yes, LBJ had free rein to shoot black people. George Bush doesn't. Though, as you'll have noted in your research, Johnson didn't send troops for several days and only after some disagreement over the constitutional issues surrounding such action:

Indeed, President Bush's response seems quite comparable.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 6:38 PM

"Strong executive action is what every American has a right to expect in a crisis. And whose absence you insist on forgiving."

Yes they do have a right to expect it. Americans know that when an emergency occurs in their city, there is a local executive responsible for handling the city response, and that person is called a mayor. They know that when an emergency occurs in their state, there is a state executive responsible for handling the state response, and that person is called a governor. They've seen mayors and governors handle high profile emergencies past and present: Haley Barbour (R) in Mississippi, Bob Riley (R) in Alabama, Rick Perry (R) in Texas, George Pataki (R) in New York, Jeb Bush (R) in Florida, Rudolph Giuliani (R) in New York. Those people behaved decisively, and like adults. They didn't whine. They didn't point fingers. They didn't cry hysterically. They didn't insinuate that the CIA was trying to assassinate them. And they didn't threaten the president with physical violence. In the end, the public is going to take away lessons on how the two parties conduct themselves in times of emergency. I don't think they're the lessons you'll include in your next book.

Posted by: djs at September 5, 2005 6:53 PM

Orrin, I'm afraid one web surf doesn't equal three years of research. There indeed was some constitutional disagreement, and some dithering and grandstanding by LBJ besides, and plenty of CYA. I'd give him a B-. I'd give GWB and F.

If you're interested in researching it further in a quick-and-dirty way, Mike Flamm's recent book "Law and Order" is interesting. Here are some easily available primary sources:

Great stuff, totally relevant. Lots of fascinating political poker between presidential candidates Johnson and Romney (the Michigan governor).

Mr. Schwartz shocks me. It is the requisitioning of a respite center for firefighters that shocked me, not what Kerik did there, other than the bad taste involved. Think of it: turning a graveyard into a pleasure palace!

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 6:53 PM

Here's a nice visual essay deconstructing a great deal of the MSM blame game on this subject.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 5, 2005 6:56 PM


Quite so:

Democrat: B-

Republican: F

It's an entirely predictable scale based solely on emotion. Of course, when LBJ sent in troops your side called him a Hitler wannabe. If W had sent troops into N.O. immediately you'd say the same of him. You guys have unfortunately rendered yourselves so unserious after 5 years of hysteria that no one listens anymore. People have accused me of making you up because your comments are so caricatured.

One thing though we can likewly agree on, it was a mistake for the Lerft to make tyhis a racial issue because sending the troops to stop black looters is appealing to even you.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 6:57 PM

Eurota has totally nailed the NYT's fecklessness on flood control issues in this and other posts. I have yet to figure out what this has to do with knee-jerk defenses of Bush's indefensible "leadership," though.

Orrin, once more you take leave of reality. "No one listens anymore?" If you're referring to no one listening to those of us pointing out the leadership deficiency in the Oval Office--again, a population that has included a suspicious number of conservaitves--people are listening, and how:

Americans, alas, have eyes to see, and whatever you, I, or anyone else says can't repeal the laws of obviousness.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 7:05 PM

And I'd give George Romney a B- too. He was a Republican, right?

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 7:08 PM

Rick's use of the 1906 SF earthquake gives the game away. On a variety of others sites the lefty trolls are using this incident to portray the Fed response slow to Katrina. So they must be getting their talking points from Kossacks or other site.

As pointed out above the federal response consisted of army units already located in SF. And of course they didn't have to deal with flooded out roads/bridges and a complete collapse of the local govt. Also, as pointed out above, the laws like Posse Comitatus and others dealing with the use of US troops in the US came about after the 1906 SF earthquake.

Why don't you use more relevant examples like the 4 hurricanes in Florida in 2004 or 1 of the many hurricanes that have hit the US in the past 10 years or so? You won't because the response, adjusting for magnitude of damage is comparable or even faster.

Posted by: AWW at September 5, 2005 7:10 PM

A dead one. You love them.

I'm interested though, what grades do Nagin and Blanco get if the President gets an F?

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 7:10 PM

Mr. Perlstein,

By the survey you link, 51% of Americans think the federal response has been fair to excellent. That number will only increase as the federal government does more and more work to aid the victims and rebuild.

Posted by: djs at September 5, 2005 7:14 PM


Imagine those sites if the US Military went in shooting to kill, imposed martial law and required slave labor of residents?

They still think it was exterminationist to do that in Fallujah.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 7:18 PM

Correction, 53% of Americans think the federal response has been fair to excellent.

Posted by: djs at September 5, 2005 7:21 PM

They seem to me B/C players as well. What you refuse to confront about Nagin's situation is the dire straights of a mayor of a city with a hollowed-out tax base. Start digging and no doubt that's where you'll find the answer to why there weren't supplies laid in at the Superdome. I haven't brought this part of it up, but a lot of this has to do with the federal tax cuts, which have meant cities have had to spend more of their own money on basic services. Mayors in poor cities just don't have a lot of freedom of fiscal movement.

This kind of unevenness from locality to locality is why we have a federal government: to create a floor of services below which no American community can drop, not least a community so essential to the American economy (fifth biggest port in the world, I've heard). All politics may be local, as Tip O'Neill claimed; but all economics impinges on the national.

(Might as well address Orrin's note of triumph that this has finally got liberals to care about fuel prices. I've always cared. They should be low. The best way to deal with the negative externality problem is CAFE standards.)

I can't figure out what the brief is against Blanco, other than that she wasn't clairvoyant. Here job was also made more difficult by the profoundly confused nature of the transition into a FEMA under the DHS. This is why planning documents matter, and which I've been mocked for bringing up. Long established lines of communication for crisis situations in the federalism chain have been rejiggered these last few years, with what appears to be deeply confused or non-existent briefings as to what should replace them.

Again: what we have to go on, now, mostly, are public statements. We won't know for some time--take it from a historian--how things actually shook out on the ground. We just have glimmers (for example the suggestive article in the Washington Post about how people dithered for days within the White House about who was in charge of what--again, this being apparently chargeable to bungled communication of post-9/11 administrative reforms).

What is indisputable is that federal officials keep on saying things that just aren't so. Really, on just about an hourly basis. I can't get much beyond this, and I can't really see how you can, either.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 7:24 PM

Just saw AWW's. He congratulates himself for clever sleuthing. But I say right there in my post I got it from DailyKos. Then I checked the evidence the Kossack cited to see if it was neutral and convincing. It was. In the same way, I read the post by the right-wing blogger absolutely savaging the New York Times for their fecklessness on the issue of flood control as nothing but pork. And I checked out his sources, and found them (mostly) convincing.

This is not grabbing "talking points." It's called critical thinking. Try it some time.

2006 GOP slogan: "53 percent of Americans think the federal repsonse was, at LEAST, fair!"

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 7:33 PM

Mr. Perlstein,

I'm not saying that 53% fair-to-excellent is a great number. I'm just saying that it probably reveals that Katrina will not be as effective a weapon as the left/msm would like it to be.

Posted by: djs at September 5, 2005 7:42 PM


Ok, I agree, let's try critical thinking. You have admitted from EUTOPA that no one had more than 24 hours notice in any real sense. Initial reports were that NO got off lightly, so ground zero for action is just after the hurricane passed through. People expected destruction that lasted for hours, not flooding that lasted for weeks. The state of the levees wasn't even much of an issue in LA elections let alone national ones. Your best position on your own facts is that the feds dawdled for two days, during which time the city and state authorities had no responsibilities and Cheney fished for too long. And on this basis you conclude the system is rotten and corrupt, the whole country is in decline and only credulous dupes like us can't see it (as opposed to "patriots" like Brooks)? Right, that follows clearly.

BTW, would you have approved if on 9/11 Rudy had said: "Body bags? Don't look to me for bodybags. Defence is a federal responsibility and they had better move fast!"? Or if the big one hits SF, Arnie can just sit back and yell at Washington?

Posted by: Peter B at September 5, 2005 7:53 PM


In a democracy 53% is all that matters

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 8:17 PM


The Feds, under a Republican, get an F but the locals, Democrats, get a B and C?

I had professors like you.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 8:18 PM

Peter B, I should have been more clear. What I agree with Eutopa is the thing about the New York Times. His timeline stuff I haven't looked at, but have certainly pulled together from dozens of different sources, both historical and contemporary, that for a stalwart leader 24 hours notice is plenty (you take a risk of looking too aggressive, but then, risks are exactly what GWB has refused to take in this matter).

And Brother Judd, right you are. And 70 percent rated the federal response "poor" or "fair," in a choice of poor, fair, good, or excellent.

I await anyone's judgement about how this makes us look to our enemies, by the way. If I were Zarqawi or Al Q, I'd go on a recruiting spree, telling the cadres that beating Bush is like pushing on an open door.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 8:26 PM

Funny, George Bush created the report card. The preface to his national disaster response plan states that President Bush "directed the development of a new National Response Plan (NRP) to align Federal coordination structures, capabilities, and resources into a unified, all discipline, and all-hazards approach to domestic incident management. . . .The end result is vastly improved coordination among Federal, State, local, and tribal organizations to help save lives and protect America's communities by increasing the speed, effectiveness, and efficiency of incident management."

On this self-professed metric, may I invite all of you to give your grades to the president?

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 8:48 PM

Saddam Hussein on the Kurds, 1998, per
In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of evacuees to the northern city, Sadaam Hussein said: "Almost everyone I've talked to wants to move to Irbil.'"

Barbara Bush, 9/5/05, on NPR's "Marketplace":

"What Iím hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 8:53 PM

I know that conservatives sincerely believe that talk of rugged individualism and an "ownership society" is a humane picture of society. But you should how Republican you're-on-your-own rhetoric ends up sounding to the other half. Very fascinating finding by a CNN reporter, which he put on their blog:

Rescue 'ticket'

Posted: 6:24 p.m. ET
CNN's Drew Griffin in New Orleans, Louisiana

I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a "ticket." Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn't believe these people were afraid they'd be charged for a rescue.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 5, 2005 8:57 PM

Rick, New Orleans is a Democratic feifdom, has been forever. Those folks went through your schools, and they listen to what you put on TV. Does their complete isolation from reality say more about Republicans or Democrats? As to the Zarqawi/AQ angle, did I just hear you correctly? You are explicitly linking the response to a hurricane, an ordinary, though large, natural disaster, the sort of thing that's on the news five times a season, to terrorism. Unless my ears aren't working you've just declared your intention to destroy the Democratic party in order to save it.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 5, 2005 9:12 PM

Rick - thanks for the sleuthing compliment.

But as usual you ignore the questions and reply with some other random thread. Why aren't you using the response time to similar recent disasters as your benchmark instead of a completely different situation almost 100 years ago?

OJ states it well above - FEMA may have made mistakes but your notion that the state and local politicos bear no responsibility for handling this emergency is just ridiculous. Above you say Blanco was confused by all the FEMA protocols and regulations - funny no other governors were confused.

Posted by: AWW at September 5, 2005 9:24 PM
CNN's Drew Griffin in New Orleans, Louisiana

I am stunned by an interview I conducted with
New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a "ticket." Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn't believe these people were afraid they'd be charged for a rescue.

And it's all completely true and it's all because of Republican talk of an ownership society! It says so right there in the blog. Take it from a historian!!

Un. be. lievable.

Posted by: djs at September 5, 2005 9:36 PM

Perlstein has finally jumped the Bush, but his trousers are torn wide open and his privates are swinging in the breeze.

The Bush remains standing, its branches clutching tightly to small swatches of fabric, hanging ragged in the sun.

Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco are not bulwarks for the Democratic party to lean on, yet they just cannot resist. Cindy Sheehan was not a bulwark. Joe Wilson was not a bulwark. John Kerry was not a bulwark. His boatmates (two of whom disappeared from public, David Alston and another whose name I cannot remember) were not bulwarks. Bill Burkett, Mary Mapes, and Dan Rather were not bulwarks. Richard Clarke was not a bulwark. Sandy Berger was not a bulwark. Tom Daschle and obstructionism were not bulwarks. Ronnie Earle is not a bulwark. David Gregory is not a bulwark.

What is left?

Bush will be out, meeting with storm victims, probably even making appearances with Blanco. Harry Reid will thunder from D.C. that an investigation is needed, until the fact that Bush urged state and local action on Friday night, August 26th becomes widely known.

But the dictator theme won't fly - MS, AL, and FL certainly didn't need Uncle to tell them what to do and how to do it. Of course FEMA made mistakes - it's probably too bad that Joe Albaugh isn't still in charge. But the Bush haters derided his appointment, too.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 5, 2005 9:58 PM


One suspects our enemies are praying we don't move the Guantanamo facility to new Orleans.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 10:16 PM


It's the most corrupt city in the most corrupt state in America, why wouldn't they expect to be shaken down? In fact, if the Feds weren't there, why wouldn't the cops be shaking them down?

NPR had an amazing, as in horrifying, story today talking about the violence and the police incompetence in its face. They said one of the reasons there are so many thugs on the streets is because only one of four people tried for murder in New orleans are convicted. It's Mogadishu on the Mississippi.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 10:24 PM

NPR did that story too, about how the folks from New Orleans are stunned by how good people in other states have it and don't want to be sent back.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 10:26 PM


He gets a gentleman's C, just like at Yale. This is pretty much how the Federal government and its massive bureaucracies handle such things. Takes a little while to convince everyone it's serious and get them up to speed and then everyone muddles through somehow. Later there's a blue ribbon commission that tells us that half the stories we heard were just rumor, but that by the next time we need to streamline the government or else we face an even worse crisis, then we add more bureaucracy in response.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 10:30 PM

Of course, Mr. Perlstein doesn't get it. If they were part of the ownership society, as their ancestors were before 1960, it might be a different story. - Daniel Moynahan (sp) called that in the 80s. This is what happens when people are infantalized.

Anyone notice the difference in conduct between the old and the young?

We learned this lesson on 9/11 - we always have an emergency packet on hand and we plotted meeting points w/in a 2 hour radius of our home.

Now we are beefing that up to 5 days++++ of goods.

The bureaucrats didn't learn anything after Ivan last year, how many more will it take? there's 300 million people in this country, can't save us all.

Now it's going to get very interesting, thousands of NO poor are out of their coccoon and out of the state, getting a crash course in the ownership society amongst other life lessons.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 5, 2005 10:36 PM

Well, if you grade on a curve and believe that in a crisis situation, people like Nagin and Blanco are the equivalent of Special Education students in school for whom mastering only the most rudementary things is considered a success, then grades of B and C are appropriate. Getting mad on the radio or crying on cue on camera is all they're capable of doing, so you shouldn't judge them harshly, and besides, the teacher should have been by their side all the time to show them step by step how to do it.

On the other hand, if you believe both Nagin and Blanco are both adults and elected officials who as part of their jobs were supposed to carry out the evacuation plans as written, instead of worrying more about their poll ratings if they forced people who didn't want to leave New Orleans out of town (Nagin) or about whether they'd lose their power base to control operations in the area if they turned over control to the feds (Blanco), then the grades would have to be set a lot lower.

Posted by: John at September 5, 2005 10:37 PM

I re-checked the timeline - apparently the warnings to Nagin and (specifically) Blanco were not given until sometime on the 27th. My error.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 5, 2005 10:42 PM

You might want to let Google know that their ads for tourism in New Orleans (attached to this thread) are probably not going to get any hits.

Posted by: ratbert at September 5, 2005 10:46 PM

Not even the morbidly curious?

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 10:55 PM

Funny, George Bush created the report card. The preface to his national disaster response plan states that President Bush "directed the development of a new National Response Plan (NRP) to align Federal coordination structures, capabilities, and resources into a unified, all discipline, and all-hazards approach to domestic incident management. . . .The end result is vastly improved coordination among Federal, State, local, and tribal organizations to help save lives and protect America's communities by increasing the speed, effectiveness, and efficiency of incident management."


Federal being the key word. If the state and local had followed their plan.....

And when one defends their turf.....

What's really the question here is who reigns supreme? Who aids whom? Federalism is such tricky business. Coordinate is such a tricky word, too.

Who should I trust more, the feds or my state?

I'd trust Richard II (Daley) before I trusted the feds, he loves his city. And I would like to think those who live in my state have a better grasp.

---- Tax cuts my eye, where'd the money go for each state to beef up its security?

BTW, Mr. Perlstein, no one ever forced you to pay the taxes on the bottom line of your 1040, you've always had the ability to pay what you think is fair. Since you didn't need it, did you send it back?

Posted by: Sandy P at September 5, 2005 10:56 PM

Geesh Rick, learn how to link will ya. It's a pain trying to copy using IE.

Thanks for the picture of Bush and the birthday cake. It's wonderful and I hope terrorists do see them, so they can know that our president isn't cowering in a cave somewhere like their "leaders" are.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 5, 2005 11:05 PM

Just learned that until three years ago the mayor of NO was a Republican. So much for the "Democratic fiefdom" theory.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 6, 2005 1:17 AM

Rick Perlstein:

My home state of Nebraska elects Democratic senators and governors from time to time, but only a fool doubts that red is the state's defining hue, in both a political and cultural sense. Likewise, New Orleans is operationally Democratic from top to bottom -- electing a Republican mayor didn't change that.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 6, 2005 2:56 AM


Actually, the tragedy was that Nagin was a Republican until he wanted to get elected mayor. Had he run and won as a Republican you'd have a GOP mayor, governor and two senators all eager to work with the feds, instead of adversarial Democrats who won't work with the great Satan in the White House.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 8:43 AM

OK OJ, He is your friend you make the garlic bread.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2005 9:23 PM

One reason why NO is short of revenue is that their tax assessment system is thoughly corupt. See this article from the NO Times-Picayune.

One commentor speculated that

If similar assessment inequities exist in apartment complexes and commercial property, which were not examined in the newspaper's survey, the likely shortfall in city revenue could be more than $100 million a year.

But of course, shortage of funds does not excuase the Mayor. He could have spent less money on soemthing else and made sure there was enough to execute the evacuation plans and to properly stock storm shelters.


Further local officials were certainly responsible for the disasterous morale in the police department.

Today's NYTimes:

"Morale on the police force is in tatters. About 500 officers - a third of the force and far more than previously estimated - have dropped out of the daily lineup. Some of them may still be in houses cut off by the storm or may have simply gone off to help their families and will eventually return. But most of the missing officers have either told their superiors that they were quitting or simply walked off the job. Two officers have shot themselves to death."

"Although he has heard city and state officials criticize the federal government as not coming fast enough, Officer French also questioned why local officers were not mustered sooner for special duty.

"They told us not to come in on Sunday, the day of the storm, to come in the next day to save money on their budget," he said."

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2005 9:42 PM