September 12, 2005


Sen. Landrieu spins (Fox News Sunday, interview with Mary Landrieu and David Vitter; via The Political Teen)

Mary Landrieu before the Senate (at 2:10): "And I intend to find out why the federal response ... was so incompetent and insulting to the people of this state."

FoxNews (question at 2:30): "I want to ask you about the local response. Was it incompetent and insulting for Mayor Ray Nagin ... to leave hundreds of buses idle so that they could be flooded instead of using them to get people out?"

Mary Landrieu (answer at 3:10 to 3:30): "I am not going to level criticism at local and state officials. Mayor Nagin, and most mayors in this country, have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone ... in front of a hurricane."

Posted by pjaminet at September 12, 2005 9:47 AM

Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. Will she even be able to run for re-election in 2008?

This woman needs to leave the Senate, put on a bathing suit, and go work the doors to the bars on Bourbon St.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 12, 2005 10:37 AM

Not the bars on Bourbon Street - the poles inside some of those bars.

Posted by: obc at September 12, 2005 11:01 AM

Fox's defense, you mean? Well, for one thing, to mobilize hundreds of buses, you need tons of fuel and hundreds of drivers. Therefore a picture of a bunch of flooded buses is evidence of nothing except rhetorical desperation.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 12, 2005 11:22 AM

Well, for one thing, to mobilize hundreds of buses, you need tons of fuel and hundreds of drivers.

Right you are. It's not like they ever get used or anything on a normal day to, like, haul kids to school or work the transit system routes or anything like that; and I'll bet there wasn't one drop of diesel in their fuel tanks--or anywhere in the central bus garage of the City of New Orleans. No, Rick, you're right, it's all Chimpy McHaliburtyon's fault!

Posted by: Mike Morley at September 12, 2005 11:27 AM

Translation: It's all George Bush's fault! Wah wah wah!

You're supposed to be some kind of soooper-genius, Rick but you're really more of a one-note canary. Is there any problem in the world that can't be laid at that most foul creature of perdition, George W. Bush's doorstep? Hey, coyotes keep stealing my chickens and the damned dogs aren't doing anything to stop them! It must be George Bush's fault! Wah wah wah!

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 12, 2005 11:29 AM

Let me get this straight, Rick--you're saying that you do believe that New Orleans followed its own disaster plan? Landrieu's argument that the New Orleans municipal workforce doesn't even show up on sunny days means that they're off the hook? Oh, OK. You're right--all Bush's fault.

Posted by: at September 12, 2005 11:30 AM

There's plenty of blame to go all around. That Louisiana and New Orleans screwed up does not magically excuse the mess at FEMA.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 12, 2005 11:30 AM

Hey, guys, it was New Orleans, so what are the odds that any of the buses were used before the hurricane? After all, the Mayor had "a hard time getting his people to work on a sunny day" (which is obviously caused by President Bush's lack of funding to poor, black cities).

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 12, 2005 11:32 AM

Mr. Perlstein:

Let it go. You are embarrassing yourself worse than Landrieu. In case you haven't checked a calendar lately, school is (was) about to start. Unless the New Orleans school bus depots were unaware of that, the fuel was there. And available right up until early Tuesday morning.

If the buses were part of the city's plan, then obviously there were drivers. At least on paper, right?

And did you read that Amtrak prepared a special last-minute train to leave the city with evacuees? Nagin ignored it, and the train left NO Sunday night at 8:30 PM, with no one on board.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 12, 2005 11:33 AM

Rick - "you need drivers" - precisely! And the cause of the lack of drivers was pointed out by Ms. Landrieu.

Posted by: pj at September 12, 2005 11:51 AM

Sincere leftism requires a tendency toward asolescent fantasism where conspiracies run rampant and complex issues are always reduced to the evil intentions of others. Garden variety incompetence at the state and local level may have been the major contributor to the problems of N. Orleans although it can never be acknowledged as long as the federal government is percieved as the perfection of power or the president is looked upon as some sort of 'great white father'. That's it, the left has become a kind of contemporary cargo cult where the concept of cause and effect is just too difficult to comprehend, like dynamic budget scoring or the simple fact that econmies are not the zero-sum games that govern tax policy on the left.

Posted by: at September 12, 2005 11:52 AM

I've taken the bold position, unfathomable by Fox once the ukase came down from the top to lock into administration damage-control mode, that both the federal government and local officials can be incompetent.

Only my position has a corollary. I don't count on the mayor of New Orleans to protect me militarily from a terrorist attack. That's the federal government's job.

So the inability to muster regular Army troops strikes me as more relevant to our concerns as a citizen than pictures of New Orleans school buses.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 12, 2005 11:56 AM

Is Mr. P saying NOLA didn't have public transportation?

That 18 y.o. who never drove a bus before didn't seem to have a problem. I could drive a bus if I had to, even if it were manual. And they had ample warning to move them to high ground and every driver still had time to leave in the vehicle of his/her choice.

and then there's Amtrak - and all those empty seats.

If each bus driver and his family left, he could have taken his immediate family on the bus.

Give it up, guys, not everyone would have left, but more would have certainly gotten out.

TX and FLA manage it, MS and AL don't seem to have the problem.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 12, 2005 11:58 AM

Rick - So the inability to muster regular Army troops to defend against an enemy attack that wasn't anticipated and didn't happen is more relevant than the inability to muster local resources to defend against a flood that was anticipated and did happen?

Posted by: pj at September 12, 2005 11:59 AM

Ah, Rick, so you've come off everything about the busses then, and now agree Landrieu's argument is a bunch of crap.

Posted by: at September 12, 2005 12:01 PM

Landrieu's an idiot and a coward. I've said that from the first. The school bus thing is pretty stupid, too. I've never seen it ARGUED, with EVIDENCE. Only with a picture: the Karl Rove definition of politics as television with the sound off. If anyone is aware of a reasoned explanation of the school bus argument, I'd be glad to read it. I'm in the market for one.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 12, 2005 12:08 PM

@Rick -

A competent evac plan would have fueled the buses prior to hurricane landfall, and also would have had a hierarchy of drivers to fulfill the role should the regular drivers decide to bug out. What's that you say? That would have cost a lot of money, and a decision tree of drivers would have been complicated? Tough luck, then. That is what it actually takes to evac the city, and we are back to OJ's assertion that we got the evac we were willing to pay for.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at September 12, 2005 12:11 PM

I've yet to see a conservative acknowledge that it might be hard to muster public resources in a city where you have the most depressed tax base in the nation. If there is a conservative that acknowledges this--about as sophisticated as 2+2=4--again: I'm in the market.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 12, 2005 12:13 PM


Gee, a competent journalist would go over the list of projects in the NO municipal government and point out the crap they fund instead of evacuation plans while at the same time whining about their tax base. That would take a competent journalist, though.

Posted by: at September 12, 2005 12:23 PM


Ever consider that, perhaps, the abandoned buses and the depressed tax base are both symptoms of the same cause?

Posted by: Timothy at September 12, 2005 12:28 PM

Rick - OK, I'll acknowledge that a depressed tax base may discourage expensive precautionary measures. Two points though:

1. If NO didn't have the money, the state of LA and the feds did. Why didn't anyone in NO ask for money in advance of the storm for the specific task of organizing the evacuation? The local officials just gave up and did nothing.

2. It's a standard part of every hurricane plan to gather emergency vehicles and personnel, move them to safe ground, wait out the storm, and then move back in. The buses and other useful equipment were left below sea level in NO. It doesn't cost much to move them 5 miles to higher ground - even the Superdome parking lot would have been safe from levee breaches.

Posted by: pj at September 12, 2005 12:31 PM

Said cause being the flight of competent middle-class people to places where they feel safe. By all means let's walk that cat back, Rick.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 12, 2005 12:31 PM

pj, you really need to leave the conservative echo chamber. Read the recent Newsweek cover story--then try to tell me the local officials never asked.

Joe, the poorest counties in America are in the Great Plains region. Start blaming the victims there, too, and we'll talk.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 12, 2005 12:46 PM

start blaming the victims there, too, and we'll talk

Except they're not victims, Rick. There's no shame in being poor in and of itself. To the extent that the urban poor are victims, they're your victims. The crime and disorder that drive people who have any other choice out of places like New Orleans are addressable, just not by the left. You've got bigger fish to fry, like getting your boot on my neck. Start caring about the basics of government and we'll talk.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 12, 2005 12:56 PM

Rick - I just skimmed Newsweek's online stories about Katrina, I didn't see anything suggesting the local or state officials made an effort to evacuate but were stymied by lack of funds. Give me a link & quote.

Posted by: pj at September 12, 2005 12:57 PM


Are you seeking to be the next Hunter S. Thompson?

Of course Blanco asked for things, just not the right things (at the proper time). Nagin asked for buses, but 4 days too late.

The post-hurricane problems are small government problems, not a massive failure in D.C. Read Jack Kelly's piece in the Pgh. Post-Gazette.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 12, 2005 12:59 PM

"Well, for one thing, to mobilize hundreds of buses, you need tons of fuel and hundreds of drivers."

Is that only city buses, or does that apply to buses provided by the feds too?

Posted by: carl at September 12, 2005 1:30 PM

My mom grew up in a 20x20 converted garage w/an outhouse, Mr. P. 1 pr of shoes at a time. In greater Chicagoland.

She was born during the Depression. I'm sure she'd be delighted to make some time for you and discuss being poor.

You've never seen the school bus thing argued w/ evidence? NOLA's evac plan is available online, regarding public trans buses, and since Blanco's in charge, can't she mobilize the school buses, or are you just splitting hairs?

Posted by: Sandy P at September 12, 2005 1:38 PM

I'm with Rick, though it's conservative dogma, rather than a bold position:

both the federal government and local officials can be incompetent.

Posted by: oj at September 12, 2005 1:43 PM


Do you support Russell Honore for President in 2008?

Without equivocation?

Posted by: ratbert at September 12, 2005 1:53 PM

While it's certainly true that both the federal government and local officials can be incompetent, Rick Perlstein is essentially arguing that the supposed incompetence of the Feds excuses the clear incompetence of the locals.

That doesn't strike me as being even remotely conservative, especially since in this type of event the locals are always supposed to have primary responsibilty for planning and first response.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2005 1:59 PM

Of course the creation of a massive State excuses everything. Having made people dependent it's unfair to ask them to suddenly behave responsibly.

Posted by: oj at September 12, 2005 2:01 PM

Newsweek lied, Americans died, Mr. P.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 12, 2005 3:05 PM

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

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2005 3:12 PM

Landrieu was singing a far more subdued tune when she did "Face the Nation" following her appearance on Fox News Sunday, so I would guess her handlers explained the concept of on-air train wreck to Mary during the break between broadcasts.

As for absolution of New Orleans and Louisiana officials, I believe the soft bigotry of low expectations comes into play here, though it probably would have been better for all involved in Bush and FEMA had at least privately realized that the top officials in Louisiana and the N.O. area couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time when it came to coordinating a smooth evacuation without outside assistance. That way they could have had an immidate plan in place when Kathleen Blanco's bayou clown show began.

Posted by: John at September 12, 2005 3:33 PM

The minute I saw the picture of all the school buses sitting in a big puddle, what popped into my head was that the mayor didn't deploy them because only union members could drive them and he was more afraid of the unions than the forces of nature.

I haven't seen a word about that, but it makes perfect sense to anyone who's been around municipal government. They're held hostage by all the various unions that control our cities today.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2005 4:16 PM

John - they'd need 50 plans.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 12, 2005 4:20 PM

Sandy --

They'd have to do covert competency analysis reports on all 50 governors, and then do the same on the mayors of the 100 or so largest cities/metro areas in the U.S. before hand. Then if a disaster struck or a hurricane was impending, they could say "Governor X and mayor Y couldn't supervise a kindergarten fire drill, let alone a massive evacuation, so we better pre-emptively send everything we can find into the area, take over operations and tell everyone what to do."

Of course, it's totally impossible to do, since you'd have to do a re-evaluation everytime a new administration took office, let alone the hurt feelings and anger that would get out if certain elected officials were deemed incompetent before the fact. But given the carping the feds have received over their inability to forsee the state and local failures, it seems as if this is what the Democrats want to propose in whatever blue ribbon report comes out of the post-Katrina investigation.

Posted by: John at September 12, 2005 5:05 PM

Landrieu; Blanco; Nagin; Sheehan; Perlstein! Gentlemen, may I present the new New Orleans "Confederancy of Dunces." Apologies to John Toole.

Posted by: Genecis at September 12, 2005 5:10 PM

Here in the outer limit of the Boston suburbs, the kids in my little town always complain that they never get any snow days off because school is always open. Closer in, towns close schools for heavy slush. Of course, keeping our schools open means that the school buses are fueled, the roads are plowed, and the buses run, which means that guys show up to gas and plow, as do drivers to drive and teachers to teach, which means that my town budgeted for it all and that the townspeople voted for it and ponied up the taxes, accompanied by just a little annual muttering.

It may not be fair to compare a New England town's seasonal planning to that of New Orleans. We're pretty sure the snow will be heavy at least once each winter. Mayor Nagin (interestingly, NPR sensitively Frenchifies the pronounciation to Nah-GAHN) and Gov. Blanco did not know when disaster would hit, only that it surely would.

New Orleans's comprehensive disaster plan directed that transport be available, which means that the buses would be gassed up during hurricane season, which means that workers and drivers would be available, and all of this 72 hours before a hurricane hits. Much mutual congratulation and a posh dinner in the French Quarter must have followed its approval. However, the plan was ignored, which means the City that Care Forgot Forgot to Care.


Posted by: Ed Bush at September 12, 2005 5:35 PM

This is a nice summary of the Fox interview:

Mary Landrieu: School Bus Failure Bush's Fault

It was the Bush administration's fault that hundreds of city school buses weren't dispatched to evacuate the hurricane-battered residents of New Orleans two weeks ago before floods swamped the city, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu said Sunday.

Asked on "Fox News Sunday" why New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin failed to follow the city's evacuation plan and press the buses into service, Landrieu blamed Bush administration cuts in mass transit funding."Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane," she said. "And it's because this administration and administrations before them do not understand the difficulties that mayors . . . face."

Landrieu then added: "In other words, this administration did not believe in mass transit. They won't even get people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out."

Saying . . .

To read the rest of this article Click Here.

Posted by: Genecis at September 12, 2005 6:00 PM

Yeah, Ed, it's not like hurricane season comes every year at the same time or anything......

and one takes precautions....

As mayor or governor of the state....

Posted by: Sandy P at September 12, 2005 6:08 PM

I saw the Landrieu interview on Fox News Sunday yesterday, and it was flat out entertaining. Landrieu is a gold-plated dipsh*t, and kudos to Chris Berman for allowing her to prove it. "I'm not going to criticize ... "? Huh? Pardon me, your agenda is showing.

Also, if anybody saw the exchange later between Brit Hume and Juan Williams, it was an instant classic in their ongoing series of confrontations. Brit won, as usual.

They should sell DVDs of this episode. Or a DVD of great Brit and Juan arguments ...

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at September 12, 2005 6:29 PM

The Newsweek article that Ricky cites is the biggest pile of manure ever published in that poor excuse for a magazine. Jeff Goldstein tore it to shreds yesterday without breaking a sweat.

Typical that that is P's source.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 12, 2005 6:53 PM


If you're still around, read this WaPo story and be sure to stop every couple of paragraphs to remind yourself that it's not Fox News. Using buses was part of the city's official plan.

Posted by: at September 13, 2005 1:33 AM

Jeff Brokaw:

I heard the exchange on XM radio yesterday -- Brit had Juan for lunch, breakfast and dinner.

Mr. Perlstein:

At one time I was in charge of doing some hurricane evacuation planning, and had to execute those plans a couple times.

So I have a little bit of first-hand knowledge about this sort of thing: how it goes wrong, and also right.

While the Federal response may not have been perfect (and awarding critical FEMA leadership positions to unqualified political cronies amounts to begging for a self inflicted wound), the Mayor and Governor respectively comprehensively failed in both planning and execution.

Had they done their jobs correctly, there wouldn't have been anyone in NO to worry about. And certainly no one would have thought evacuating NO to locations in NO as anything but insane.

FEMA, for its part, failed to recognize the shortcomings in LA and either try to redress them in well in advance, or take compensatory measures as the hurricane approached.

But your focus on the Federal gov't fails to understand how and where planning and execution occurs. And, more importantly, all armchair critics have completely failed to mention the "Cry Wolf" problem.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 13, 2005 7:02 AM

"critical FEMA leadership positions to unqualified political cronies amounts to begging for a self inflicted wound"

All governments award jobs to political cronies. Even ones that do not conduct electoral polotics. The Soviet Government, Saddam hussein, all of them. Mao encapsulated the practice in a slogan:

"Better Red, than expert."

It is but one reason why the scope of government should be limited.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 13, 2005 9:35 AM


Correct, they do. But the cronies should get assigned to the Small Animal Administration, or if that is too tough, Ambassador to Luxembourg.

And just as correct, that is a reason for limited gov't.

But putting the grotesquely unqualified in top FEMA positions -- and organization that would arguably be part of even a limited govt -- is just asking to get slugged.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 13, 2005 12:01 PM