Katrina spells trouble for Bush…

Andrew Sullivan with a largely unantagonistic and thoughtful analysis of the political fallout now facing George Bush in the wake of what looks like the US’s greatest national disaster for over a century. Incompetence is the central charge that is likely to stick, particular in the light of Bush’s claim early on that no one could have predicted the scale of the disaster. As Sullivan says, “read this prophetic passage and weep”:

NOTE: First polls are not sharing the anti Bush sentiment of the commentators. Hat tip Kausfiles.

“The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all. In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city’s less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20ft of water.

“Thousands of refugees could land in Houston. Economically, the toll would be shattering . . . If an Allison-type storm were to strike New Orleans, or a category three storm or greater with at least 111mph winds, the results would be cataclysmic, New Orleans planners said.”

More on the Daily Dish on a fairly brutish political game of Blaming the Locals.


PS
: Check out the CNN page recording the reactions of all the major players. PPS: It seems the eventual evacuation is all but complete. And John has loads on the specific chains of command issues.

  • El Matador

    It’s interesting to note that in November 2004, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama all voted Bush. Perhaps us Europeans had the right idea about the president. This event, and (surprise surprise) the fact that the poorest in US society have been affected the worst, exposes a widely held belief on this side of the Atlantic that, far from being the land of the free, the USA is a country of both great wealth and crippling poverty.

    The kind of laissez-faire economics practised in the states leads to the brunt of disasters disproportionately affecting the poor- the Irish famine in the 1840s was a prime example of how this kind of system can have devastating consequences on the most vulnerable when catastrophe strikes.

    I’m quite sure if Katrina has decided to head north and decimate the Hamptons, the response wouldn’t be so tardy or lacklustre.

    Many low income Americans must be left thinking now- we’ve sent our boys to Iraq for this administration, now look how they treat us when we need something in return.

    Perhaps it’s time ‘socialism’ wasn’t regarded as such a bad word in America.

  • John

    Mick

    I think there’ll be plenty of blame to share around. I think complacency – at all levels of government and, to be honest, among too many in the general population – before the storm and too much bureaucratic red tape afterwards created this nightmare. For me, the saddest aspects are:

    • the hundreds of unused New Orleans school buses that could have been used to evacuate the poorest citizens
    • the thousands of people who wouldn’t leave their pets and, therefore, wouldn’t go to the shelters
    • the New Orleans “dodged a bullet” headlines on Monday night/Tuesday morning that meant the Feds concentrated on Mississippi/Alabama and didn’t have the resources to react to the delayed disaster in NO (which is what, I think, Bush & Chertoff meant by nobody foreseeing the levees breaking after “dodging the bullet”)
    • drafting plans to use the Superdome as a shelter, but not thinking that food/water/sanitation/medical supplies might also be needed

    Of course, the most disgusting aspect is that some saw this as an opportunity to murder, rape and pillage, which had the effect of (1) diverting resources that should have been used to save others; (2) discourage people from helping in the rescus; (3) encouraging many people to ‘hole up’ when they should have been trying to attract rescuers; (4) breaking the morale of a city. Those people are the only ones I cannot relate to. Mistakes, errors, complacency – even if they have horrendous consequences – I can understand, but not that animal-like behavior.

  • peteb

    There are more details on the emerging story of the red-tape tangle, hesitancy and lack of planning, at local and state levels of government as well as federally, in this post at the Professor’s blog

  • John

    And, anyone who wants to watch a disaster unfold in reverse should go to brendanloy.com. This guy has almost a minute by minute account of what the various weathermen and government officials were saying before Katrina hit. He was tracking the storm for two days (+) prior to the storm reaching the coast.

    Loy is pretty daming of Mayor Nagin’s slow call to evacuate the city despite the fact the weather service was practically pleading with him to do so on Saturday. And, he said he would use trains/buses to get all transport who couldn’t afford to go on their own. I keep thinking of that picture of hundreds of New Orleans school buses sitting in a parking lot surrounded by water.

  • John

    El Matador,

    There is still so much we don’t know yet. I think it may be too soon to start a class war over what happened.

    We know that those who were in the Superdome and Convention Center were predominantly the poor of New Orleans, but we know a lot less about those who died. It may be that age, not wealth, was the most accurate determinant as to who lived and who died.

    I think it’s fair comment to take the President to task for his and his administration’s performance in this disaster, it is way too soon to start condemning American society for what is, after all, a natural disaster. The devastation covers an area the size of Britain. I daresay that Europe would struggle to cope in a similar situation.

  • circles

    John you don’t actually belive that age was the determing factor do you? I mean even IF the dead were mainly the elderly, you can be sure that the rich (white) elderly people got out in much greater numbers than the poor (black) elderly.
    American society can of course not be directly blamed for this disaster – however it has highlighted that it is u.s.american society is clearly divided along the lines of both wealth and colour (which overlap almost perfectly).
    The question thrown up by this disaster is: How can a society that claims to be the epitome of freedom and land of opportunity be so clearly divided along black / white lines? This is the 21st century for God’s sake!

  • El Matador

    John,

    I watched Jaws on TV last night, and the ‘powers that be’ on the island where Jaws was eating people delayed in closing the beaches in fear that they would lose money from 4th July holidaymakers- they didn’t care about the people who could’ve gotten eaten.

    It may be a strange simile, but it seems a little strane how in New Orleans there was major delays in the evacuation (The NY Times said Brendan Loy had predicted a 100,000 death toll two days beforehand, and he was just an amateur.)

    As regards such a catastrophe in Europe, I agree that we would struggle, as anywhere in the world would. But I think the American laissez-faire system, and the false pretence that ‘everyone’s equal’ has contributed to the disatrous situation in N.O. whereby the richest nation in the world has had people dehydrated and dying of disease in one of their major cities. I repeat my assertion that I do not believe that areas such as the Hamptons or the affluent DC suburbs would have suffered as much from a natural disaster.

  • El Matador

    How can a society that claims to be the epitome of freedom and land of opportunity be so clearly divided along black / white lines? This is the 21st century for God’s sake!

    I don’t think that it’s any surprise that most of those we have seen caught in the midst of the disaster have been black. But therein lies the problem of American economics- there is no physical barrier preventing the advance of black people or poor people, but conversely there is no safety net for those who do not ‘make it’.

    If you couldn’t afford a car or public transport out of N.O. and had nowhere to stay outside the city, then you were left to Katrina.

  • micktvd

    John, you write, “Of course, the most disgusting aspect is that some saw this as an opportunity to murder, rape and pillage”

    Is it popossible to make the distinction between people breaking into stores for food, water clothes, etc, and those who loot, rape and kill for depraved reasons. I would not hesitate for one second to steal anything if it meant staying alive in a situation such as this. How much of the so called looting falls into the first category?

    In addition, if the negligence and complacency that we appear to have seen is based to some degree on the class and race of those trapped in NO, then it is a disgusting crime. That is what many are saying and feeling, particularly in the African American community.

  • John

    John you don’t actually belive that age was the determing factor do you? I mean even IF the dead were mainly the elderly, you can be sure that the rich (white) elderly people got out in much greater numbers than the poor (black) elderly.

    We’ll have to see. I’m not so sure. Many of the thousands who died (as opposed to those who suffered the indignities of the Superdome/Convention Center) were people who would not leave their homes because they couldn’t bring their pets with them. I would imagine that many old people regardless of their race and means (other than those who are extraordinarily wealthy) would have stayed with their pet rather than evacuate.

    I also believe you’ll find many of those who died were in nursing homes and hospitals. Again, I expect these people to be a fair reflection of New Orleans’s society – black, white, poor, middle income even rich.

    If this is not the case, then that would mean either (a) that nursing homes/hospitals for the rich were evacuated before the storm, but other hospitals and nursing homes were not or (b) the rich elderly and patients were given priority evacuation after the storm. “b” is certainly wrong and “a” seems pretty unlikely to me.

    I doubt we’ll ever statistics that provide any answers as to what percentage of the New Orleans dead were white/black/other.

  • John

    Is it popossible to make the distinction between people breaking into stores for food, water clothes, etc, and those who loot, rape and kill for depraved reasons. I would not hesitate for one second to steal anything if it meant staying alive in a situation such as this. How much of the so called looting falls into the first category?

    I don’t know and I don’t care how much of the looting falls into the category you’ve mentioned. What matters is that the police were called away from search and rescue to deal with the deteriorating security. Looting as you’ve described can be justified (although it also fed the mood of lawlessness that eventually spiraled out of control).

    And, the looting had started before the levees broke. That is, before it could be justified. NBC showed looting on Monday evening after the storm, but before the real disaster had befallen New Orleans.

    I can understand why people would loot food, water and other essentials, of course. I’m not condemning anyone who did so. I’m really talking about those who began shooting indiscrimantly; robbing others of their food, boats, whatever; or raping at will.

  • Katie

    Blame the damn looting {Shame on you for thinking this word’ so you do not have to look at the broblem.

    Every sector of society that is faced with rapid, mass starvation will react in the same way, ANARCHY. I do not care if they are poor black people or rich white people. In the richest country in the world, I think it is fair that we use some of our collective earnings to prevent this from happening. This is not only the decent christian thing to do, but as we will soon find out, IT IS CHEAPER!!!

    Yes those school busses sat idle, and they should not have. those school busses would have made a drop in the bucket, new orleans COULD NOT HAVE BEEN EVACUATED WITH 500 SCHOOL BUSES! Yes, NOLA should be held accountable for not using those scholl busses to get the 5-15% out that they could but it would not have been enough.

  • John

    I have no idea how many school buses weren’t used to evacuate people from New Orleans. I do know that my school – 10,000 students – had around 220 buses when I was there. I would imagine that New Orleans has more than 500 school & municipal buses available. And, if each bus can carry 40 people (an estimate) then even 500 buses could have moved 20,000 people before the storm hit.

    And, yes, I do blame those who went on a rampage. I don’t care if people are going hungry it does not give you license to murder and rape at will. That behavior – raping women in the Superdome, firing on the rescue helicopter, murdering people for their belongings – all made the situation much worse.

    And, yes, maybe such behavior is inevitable. That doesn’t mean the people who engage in it are any less culpable. I have no idea who did the murdering and raping. I don’t know if they were black, white, rich or poor, but I do know that their behavior was so base that ‘animal’ is the only word I can think of to describe it.

  • Gum

    “‘The good news is – and it’s hard for some to see it now – that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house — he’s lost his entire house – there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.’ (Laughter).” – president George W. Bush, Friday Sept. 2

    He feels your pain.

  • Keith M

    They only people blaming Bush are the badly informed and those with an anti-Bush agenda. America is a federal state and as people have pointed out on this site and on every US debate show I saw over the weekend, the vast bulk of the blame must be laid at the doors of the local officials who where frozen into inaction themselves and didn’t bother to ask for outside support until it was too late. After ordering an evacuation of the city they seemed to forget that there wew those who did not have the means to leave under there own steam.

    John “I have no idea how many school buses weren’t used to evacuate people from New Orleans. I do know that my school – 10,000 students – had around 220 buses when I was there. I would imagine that New Orleans has more than 500 school & municipal buses available. And, if each bus can carry 40 people (an estimate) then even 500 buses could have moved 20,000 people before the storm hit.” Exactly where were you planning to go? All that was needed was that people were moved to places where they were not in immediate danger. The buses could have operated a shuttle service and gotten all that wanted to leave out.

    Secondly there were those that chose to say. They took a risk. Tough! Americans have to learn that people are responsible for their own actions.

    Thirdly I am particularly disgusted at those trying to turn this into a race issue. The majority of those living in New Orleans are black. If the hurricane hit Miami (as it could just as easily have done) then it would have been hispanics who suffered. If there’s a hurricane blowing through the Mid West then whites tend to be the most affected. The cynical attempts at manipulation of the black community by scumbags like Michael Moore and useful fools like Kayne West was a disgrace.

    El Matador “Perhaps it’s time ‘socialism’ wasn’t regarded as such a bad word in America.”. You don’t have to go to America for “socialism” to be considered bad. Here in Europe it has been well and truely discredited, or have you missed the advance of parties like “new Labour” distancing themselves as far as they can from socialism?

  • David

    I am currently studying at university just north of Austin Texas, and we are caring for many of those from N.O who lost everything in Katrina. The overiding feeling shared by all of them is annimosity toward the federal government for their slow response. Many here feel that America reacted quicker to the victims of last years Tsunami

  • Katie

    To the gentleman whose school had 220 busses, are you aware that hose buses were likely shared by ALL schools in it’s district? That is why start times for schools and grades are so widely scattered, your school bus driver did not serve only you in a day, he/she likely drove buses for 5-6 different schools. One bus in a typical day generally transports students from many different schools. I am unaware of how many school DISTRICTS NOLA has, but if it anything like most cities its size, there is only ONE. These districts usually coordinate services with private schools as well because it provides badly needed income for the public schools.

    There were no funds in New Orleans for disaster planning. none. funds of this type have been consolidated in the past five years and now are doled out federally to the homleand security department. That is why FEMA wargamed hurricane pam last year. (or started too, they lacked the funds to finish it) New Orleans does not have a broad enough tax base to provide for this themselves, they never have. This is our fault. Federally we know that our whole nation is RELIANT on the port of NOLA for billions of dollars worth of shipping commerce. We should have protected this asset. We benifit from the income it generates as a nation. it is not just louisiana that makes money off of her port.

    And you know what, I do not blame bush specifically, I blame the heads of FEMA and the head of Homeland secutrity for thier total incompetence. I understand thier incompetence, because they have NEVER worked in the area of emergency preparedness. Which to me means they should not have been appointed to those posts. This is not something you can learn on the fly. And since Bush is the one who appointed them, bush needs to be held accountable. He is the self proclaimed “Accountability administration” is he not?

    There is spin going on right now, and the bush admin is trying it’s level best to blame this on NOLA officials, but a disaster of this magnitude can only be blamed on three things.

    underfunding of flood control, and bush has cut the coe budget every year of his administration

    Systemic poverty among WORKING americans, and the number of americans under the poverty level has increased by about 10 % during his admin. even as health care, fuel and housing costs have spiraled.

    and poor planning by FEMA and the Dept of Homeland security, the only two entities in this country with the budgets to deal with this sort of thing.

    NOLA officials will be held and should be held accountable for mistakes they have made. But unlike the prison abuse debacle, we cannot fire the small fry and let the actual perps go free. The FEDS had all of the hurricane planning funds in thier jurisdiction. they are ultimately responsible.

    AND ALL YOU PEOPLE WHO ARE BLAMING THE LOOTERS ARE REALLY PISSING ME OFF! Society is based on order, when that order is disrupted, anarchy happens. AND BY DELUDING YOURSELVES INTO THINKING THAT ALL THE VICTIMS ARE FILTHY GUN TOTING RAPISTS AND CRIMINALS, YOU ARE EXPOSING YOURSELF AS THE RASCISTS YOU ARE! Yes they were there, but reports have been GREATLY exxagerated. It may make you feel better to blame the victim, it may ease your discomfort a bit, but you are lying to yourselves. and I think a little secret part of yourself knows this.

  • John

    To the gentleman whose school had 220 busses, are you aware that hose buses were likely shared by ALL schools in it’s district? That is why start times for schools and grades are so widely scattered, your school bus driver did not serve only you in a day, he/she likely drove buses for 5-6 different schools.

    This is really getting way off the point, which is that New Orleans surely had a lot of buses that were not used. However, when I said “school” I meant “school district”. We had one big campus with 10,000 kids from K-12. 220 buses for our school district.

    I accept that evacuating a city is probably impossible. My point was that the buses could have helped, but I don’t think anything could have avoided the massive disaster that’s unfolded throughout that region. As Keith mentions above, even if you get 20,000 people into buses, where do you take them? The devestation left by Katrina goes 150+ miles inland in the storm’s direct path. And, until the storm actually made landfall it’s path was not clear.

    One other demographic group that I’m sure suffered disproportionately is the homeless. New Orleans had more than its fair share of homeless people thanks to its temperate climate. I would imagine that many of them died.

  • foreign correspondent

    ´The cynical attempts at manipulation of the black community by scumbags like Michael Moore and useful fools like Kayne West was a disgrace.´

    I think the term ´scumbag´ could be more usefully applied to people responsible for warcrimes in the Middle East like Donald Rumsfeld. And George Bush is the quintessential ´useful fool´ of the neoCONS, a third-rate intellect nominally in charge of the USA.
    Michael Moore is to be applauded for being one of the first to point out that this particular Emperor has no clothes, and indeed that he stole the friggin´ throne!
    Kayne West was reacting like a human being to the suffering he had seen, though someone who could make a cheap crack about a NOLA charity appeal would probably find that hard to understand.
    If he didn´t have such a busy schedule sometimes I´d nearly believe that Karl Rove was posting on this site under certain pseudonyms.

  • John

    Just saw this comment under this blog post that may or may not be reputable, but does answer my question about the school buses:

    Nagin is quoted as saying ” I didn’t use the schoolbuses to evacuate because they didn’t have toilets”.

  • 6cprod

    There were 2,000 school buses at the mayor’s disposal.

    The aerial photographs of hundreds of available school buses sitting in feet of water cannot be buried for ever, no matter how hard the BBC, Guardian, NY Times and Washington Post try.

    There’s a day of reckoning coming, and Mr Democratic Mayor of NO will have a lot to answer for.

  • Katie

    John, I imagine that the toilet rule is a FEMA regulation…. try again.

  • 6cprod

    Foreign Correspondent, You are hilarious!

    Donald Rumsfeld is a technician, not a warrior; a businessman, not an ideologue. He is An Old Man in a Hurry

    Michael Moore is a great example of the American tourist stereotype: loud, obnoxious and fat. Talk about the ‘The Ugly American’, Michael Moore has it all. Yet, why is it that Europeans just love him, even though he epitomises the more objectionable aspects of American traits? I am genuinely confused.

    Thank goodness the hundreds, maybe thousands of Americans I have met, while living in America and working with them in Africa, are nothing like the loathsome Mr Moore. He is a shame and disgrace to his country. Lord Haw Haw wouldn’t have a look in.

  • foreign correspondent

    ´Michael Moore is a shame and disgrace to his country´
    Why? For giving details about all the dirty electoral tricks the Repugs were up to Florida?
    For pointing out the endless series of lies leading up to the unjustifiable and disgraceful war in Iraq?

  • 6cprod

    Mr Moore makes an absolute fortune from gullible (liberal) Americans who have no idea how much damage his books and films are doing to America in the rest of the world.

    Most bookstores in the UK, and many in Europe have a row of books by Moore, and other nutters from the American left, castigating everything American. Great fodder for ameriphobic Europeans.

    I’m all for free speech, but Mr Moore’s penchant for accuracy and truthfulness is somewhat lacking. Christopher Hitchens gives brief coverage to one of Moore’s fantasies, and if you google Michael Moore’s lies you get over 5 million returns!
    Interesting chap, is our Michael.