Thursday, August 30, 2007

After Katrina

George W. Bush failed to be on site in New York immediately after 9/11. He failed again when Katrina devastated New Orleans.

On September 14, 2001 he cruised over WTC site in a helicopter, shades of flying over New Orleans, and does his famous photo-op with the Firemen at Ground Zero.

==Around mid-afternoon on Friday, Bush finally appears in New York City
with a large Congressional delegation and takes a quick helicopter tour of the devastated area with Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki as warplanes fly overhead. Afterwards, Bush visits Ground Zero, where he engages in a rare impromptu exchange with a crowd. As rescue personnel chant “U.S.A! U.S.A.!,” Bush climbs atop a small pile of rubble and uses a bullhorn to thank them for their efforts. When some workers call out that they can’t hear, Bush responds "I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!" The crowd reacts with cheers and more chants of “U.S.A.!” Workers at Ground Zero are clearly encouraged by Bush’s visit, but there is also annoyance over the two hour shutdown of rescue work caused by the extremely tight security measures. [nyt.Sep.14.2001 / cnn.Sep.14.2001 / dmn.Sep.15.2001]

After talking to state officials and emergency teams in New York, the president flew to Camp David for what a senior US official called a "decision-making meeting" later on Saturday with top advisors.

September 14: President Bush declares a national emergency. The Senate adopts a resolution authorizing the use of U.S. armed forces against those responsible for the attacks. President Bush visits the World Trade Center site. Federal officials release names of the 19 hijackers. Bush declares a "national day of prayer and remembrance." Many Americans attend religious services. Congress unanimously approves $40 billion for emergency aid, including $20 billion for New York. President Bush activates 50,000 national guard and reserve members to help with recovery and security.

After Katrina he failed to visit New Orleans until the anniversary of 9/11. Weeks after the hurricane hit. And then it was for another photo op like 9/11.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) Sunday, September 11, 2005;

-- President Bush arrived in Louisiana Sunday as the official death toll from Hurricane Katrina climbed past 400 and the search for bodies continued nearly two weeks after the storm hit the Gulf Coast.

The visit is Bush's third to the region but his first chance to get a first-hand look at the streets of New Orleans, which were flooded after levees protecting the low-lying city broke.

Two days after the storm hit, Bush surveyed Katrina's destruction from Air Force One on his way back to Washington from Crawford, Texas, where he'd spent a month's vacation. He visited other parts of the region in two subsequent visits.

He was on vacation prior to Katrina as he was prior to 9/11.

“News coverage has pointedly stressed that W.'s month-long stay at his ranch in Crawford is the longest presidential vacation in 32 years. Washington Post supercomputers calculated that if you add up all his weekends at Camp David, layovers at Kennebunkport and assorted to-ing and fro-ing, W. will have spent 42 percent of his presidency ‘at vacation spots or en route.’” Charles Krauthammer, “A Vacation Bush Deserves,” The Washington Post, August 10, 2001.

Yesterday he commemorated his regimes failure to support the people of New Orleans then and now. And as usual there was no mea culpa.

President Bush and other officials observed the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, honoring the dead and touring still ruined neighborhoods.

However the real scandal is not that he arrived late after Hurricane Katrina, but that after two years the City has not been rebuilt, funds have been squandered.

A recent report from the RFK Center for Human Rights and the Institute for Southern Studies estimated that the Bush administration was overstating federal funding for the Gulf Coast rebuilding campaign by as much as 300%, with about $35 billion of an estimated $114 billion actually spent.

With America's largest black city and thousands of blacks stranded in the immediate aftermath of the storm the failure to rescue them smacked of racism.

That the federal government has utterly failed in these lethal days is universally obvious.

Is it because so many of these people are black and poor? Is it because Bush has successfully stolen a second term and just doesn't care? Is it because this gouged and battered organization that was once our government has been so thoroughly exhausted by war and corruption that it cannot or will not manage so basic a task as bringing the necessities of life to its needlessly dying citizens?

But to hear of dead bodies being stacked outside a professional football stadium to avoid further stench where ten thousand Americans can't get water, food or sanitary facilities.To see dazed elders who've just lost their homes or hospital rooms being laid on sidewalks to die. To watch crying children stretched out on the ground, separated from their parents, dehydrated, overheated, starving....this is too much to bear.

How utterly can our nation have failed? How totally bankrupt can we be?

And the guy in charge of all this who should have been fired; Homeland Security boss Chertoff, wasn't.

Congressional investigators lambasted the U.S. government for its response to Hurricane Katrina, saying a lack of a clear chain of command hindered relief efforts and that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff or another top official should have been the point person on relief efforts.

The Government Accountability Office also found that the government still lacks sufficient plans and training programs to prepare for catastrophic disasters like the Aug. 29 storm that devastated much of the Gulf Coast area. But it also singled out Chertoff in several shortcomings.

Until now, Chertoff has largely escaped widespread criticism of the government's sluggish response to Katrina. By contrast, then-FEMA Director Michael Brown, the principal federal official at the disaster site, quit his job after becoming the public face of the failures.

The report said that neither Chertoff nor any of his deputies in the disaster area acted as President George W. Bush's overall storm coordinator, "which serves to underscore the immaturity of and weaknesses relating to the current national response framework."

After all Katrina was not a surprise to the administration since they had anticipated it.

Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all."

Some critics are suggesting President Bush was as least partly responsible for the flooding in New Orleans. In a widely quoted opinion piece, former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal says that "the damage wrought by the hurricane may not entirely be the result of an act of nature," and cites years of reduced funding for federal flood-control projects around New Orleans.

Our fact-checking confirms that Bush indeed cut funding for projects specifically designed to strengthen levees. Indeed, local officials had been complaining about that for years.

And with a lame duck President and an administration running on the spot nothing has changed. The failures that led to the destruction of New Orleans plague the White House still.

When investigating the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, a House of Representatives select committee cited a “failure of initiative” at all levels of government. The storm killed 1,836 people, caused an estimated $81 billion in damage, and displaced some two million people. The population of New Orleans is currently about 66 percent of its pre-Katrina level, and the city’s uneven recovery is examined in depth in this New York Times interactive feature. The Department of Homeland Security has since quadrupled its stockpiles of emergency supplies and sought to improve emergency planning at the community level. The 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act signed by President Bush in August promises to provide increased funding for emergency communications and first responders. Yet some experts believe the lessons of the disaster appear to have gone unlearned. In his recent book, The Edge of Disaster, CFR’s Stephen Flynn says the levees that failed to protect New Orleans two years ago are being rebuilt to the same standard as before, capable only of enduring a Category 3 hurricane.

Now compare Bush's slow response to President Johnson's visit to hurricane ravaged New Orleans after Hurricane Betsy. And a visit to the same lower ninth ward that Bush visited yesterday.

Lyndon Johnson received high marks for visiting the Lower Ninth Ward and victims in shelters a day after Hurricane Betsy ravaged New Orleans. ("I put aside all the problems on my desk to come to Louisiana as soon as I could," Johnson said.)

President Lyndon Baines Johnson flew into New Orleans the day after Hurricane Betsy in September 1965 and announced at the airport, "I am here because I want to see with my own eyes what the unhappy alliance of wind and water have done to this land and people."
The day after. Not a week later.

LBJ believed in the 'Great Society'. Bush believes in 'compassionate conservatism'. The latter is an ideological reaction to the former. And it has proven to be more of a failure than the Great Society ever was.


Our Living Earth

Surge Blackout

What He Didn't Say

Soul of a City

Remember Katrina and Rita?

Katrina Mission Accomplished

Katrina: It's a Dog-Gone Crime

This is What Global Warming Looks Like

A Paradox called Katrina

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