Jan 23 2006
02:10 pm

Mayor Ray Nagin has taken a lot of heat for not deploying school buses to help evacuate residents of New Orleans until the buses were flooded and it was too late. His explanation was that he couldn't get enough drivers because they had evacuated, and that his job was to get as many people as possible to high ground and wait for state and federal help that never came. That may or may not be a good explanation, but at least it sounds reasonable.

According to this investigative report, it appears that FEMA has no excuse at all for their bungling of the evacuation effort. As usual, it involves alleged sweetheart outsourcing deals, huge corporate profits, and negligent mismanagement.

Why is the Bush administration getting a pass on this? Apparently one of his alleged "inherent" powers of the presidency is also glaring incompetence.

Andy Axel's picture

Why is the Bush

Why is the Bush administration getting a pass on this?

Oh, maybe because it might require some perfumed & powdered journalists to put down the cocktail weenies and, y'now, work?

JustJohnny's picture

Speaking of sweetheart

Speaking of sweetheart deals:
Workers Allege Halliburton Knew Their Water Was Foul
Apparently it is okay to overcharge as long as a sub par product is offered.

rikki's picture

FEMA has no excuse at

FEMA has no excuse at all

What are you talking about? Mr. Brown had to choose a tie and get a belly full at a nice, sit-down place before tackling the crisis. He also had to get a pet-sitter before leaving D.C. That's two or three excuses right there.

Les Jones's picture

I don't think Bush did get a

I don't think Bush did get a free pass. Michael Brown wound up stepping down, as he should have. He didn't do a good job, and wasn't qualified for the position. I voted for Bush and I didn't give Brown a a free pass - I blogged several times about him and was glad to see him go.

At the same time, Blanco and Nagin deserver blame, too. There were screwups at all levels, right down to the police who abandoned their posts, stole cars to get out of town, and got caught on film joining in the looting.

As far as Nagin's latest excuse about not having bus drivers, recall that during that whole mess Nagin was complaining that FEMA wasn't giving him buses to evacuate people with.

"I need reinforcements," he pleaded. "I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. This is a national disaster.

Nagin said, "Get every Greyhound bus in the country and get them moving."

Now that everyone has seen that picture of the flooded buses Nagin has had to invent a new story.

R. Neal's picture

Les: None of that excuses

Les, with all due respect none of that excuses the outrageous web of incompetence exposed by this report, and not all of it just within FEMA.

It's pretty hard to accept that Homeland Security is prepared for another disaster, or worse, a large scale terrorist attack, when you find out out simple things such as how DHS outsourced evacuation to a company that doesn't own any buses and had no plan and with nobody seemingly in charge to respond in case of a disaster where tens of thousands of people might need to be evacuated.

I can't imagine what other weaknesses are waiting to be exposed when the next disaster, or worse, strikes.

Clinton did it too, Nagin and Blanco did it too, Democrats do it too, pinning the problems on low-level bureaucratic functionaries, etc. are not an acceptable response and offer no solution.

Leadership starts at the top.

Les Jones's picture

A leader is only responsible

A leader is only responsible for the people he can hire and fire. Since Bush hired Brown, he's responsible for his incompetence. And subsequent to Katrina Bush fired him (inasmuch as anyone ever gets fired in Washington).

But Bush can't hire and fire local cops and firefighters. Luckily for NYC, they had good first responders on 9/11. Luckily for Texas and Florida, they had good first responders, mayors, and governors when they got hit by hurricanes. It was only in New Orleans that things turned into a three-alarm cockup.

During a disaster the first response has to be from state and local government because they're there and the Federales aren't. The rule under Clinton was three days, and it makes sense because it takes time to mobilize a federal response. If you don't think your state and local leaders are up to the job vote bastards out.

Randy, I can see where all levels of government cocked it up. How come you've got blinders on when it comes to the Democratic governor and mayor's culpability?

R. Neal's picture

Les, I don't. I'm not

Les, I don't. I'm not apologizing for anybody. You are. There is plenty of blame to go around. But to expect any local or state government to handle a catastrophe like Katrina on their own without any help from the federal government is ridiculous.

Not to minimalize any disaster, but to compare Texas, Florida (I note you left out Mississippi -- I suppose that great GOP supporter of all things Bush wasn't quite powerful enough to keep the hurricanes from devastating a large part of his state) or even 9/11 with what happened in New Orleans is absurd.

I don't think you've been paying attention. Over 100,000 homes were wiped out by the flood. Hundreds of thousands displaced, jobless, and homeless. More than a thousand dead. Thousands more missing. Complete destruction of the entire infrastructure of a major U.S. city.

But I can see why you might not appreciate the magnitude of the problem. The media isn't covering it.

R. Neal's picture

A leader is only responsible

A leader is only responsible for the people he can hire and fire.

Leadership about much, much more than just hiring and firing. I'm surprised you would make such a remark.

Les Jones's picture

"Leadership about much, much

"Leadership about much, much more than just hiring and firing."

Sure it is. But a leader's direct responsibility is only for the people he can hire and fire, or hire and fire through the chain of command. If you disagree, please explain how you can hold someone responsible for someone who isn't in their chain of command, including, one would presume, for their superiors.

R. Neal's picture

But a leader's direct

But a leader's direct responsibility is only for the people he can hire and fire

I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure the job descriptions and responsibilities of the corporate executive management positions I've held go far beyond hiring and firing. You know, stuff like earnings, fiduciary responsibility to shareholders (or, for example, taxpayers), planning and execution, performance and results, meeting goals and objectives, enhancing the organization's value propositions, enforcing and promoting the "corporate culture" and "core values", customer satisfaction and retention, stuff like that.

Hell, I've signed 15 page employment contracts covering that kind of stuff, and Bush only had to recite a few homilies about protecting and defending the Constitution and whatnot.

But I guess what you are trying to say is that all of that is dependent on the people you can hire and fire. In my experience, that's a pretty low-level "supervisory" point of view vs. an "executive managment" point of view. Maybe that's the disconnect here.

But even a manager at Burger King has responsibility for the cash, making sure the fryers are working, and that people show up for work and do their jobs and that the place is being properly run.

P.S. Just like an officer of the court, I'm pretty certain corporate officers and executives are duty bound to report any malfeasence to the board of directors, whether it's by a subordinate, a superior, or someone under somebody else's command. I'd guess it's the same in government, what with rules of ethics and oaths to uphold the laws and the Constituion and so forth.

R. Neal's picture

P.S. One more thing. Did you

P.S. One more thing. Did you even read the report? You seem to be defending this incompetence. I'm surprised a guy like you wouldn't be outraged by the apparent corruption and incompetence and waste of taxpayer's dollars and threat to national security. But yeah, blame it on the local firefighters and policemen. Really, you ought to go down there and tell it to their faces.

Les Jones's picture

I did. Did you read the

I did. Did you read the links I posted? New Orleans and Louisiana are still some of the best remaining examples of old-style machine politics and endemic corruption. No wonder that Louisiana had the lowest growth rate of any U.S. state even before Katrina.

Incidentally, Amtrak had trains ready to evacuate people from Katrina, but they left the station empty - Federal help that was un-utilized by a mayor who failed to follow his city's evacuation plan.

R. Neal's picture

New Orleans and Louisiana

New Orleans and Louisiana are still some of the best remaining examples of old-style machine politics and endemic corruption.

Maybe so, but again I'm still trying to figure out how that excuses corruption and incompetence at a larger, national scale. Once again, you appear to be the one with blinders, and for some obsessive reason feel compelled to defend government corruption and incompetence as long as it's "your guys" responsible.


Les Jones's picture

Funny, I'm willing to

Funny, I'm willing to criticize Republicans and Bush (see the links criticizing Michael Brown and Bush's selection of same above) as well as Democrats. You're the one who can only wants to hold people with (R) after their names accountable.

I also criticized Pat Robertson and Ray Nagin both for pretending to be God's voice. Dumbasses are dumbasses no matter what party they're registered with.

R. Neal's picture

The very first sentence of

The very first sentence of this post is critical of Nagin. I also said there's plenty of blame to go around.


Les Jones's picture

To nitpick, that first

To nitpick, that first sentence says he's taken a lot of heat, but if you're willing to say there's plenty of blame to go around, I agree. Bush, Blanco, and Nagin are all culpable. As proof, I give you this t-shirt.

rikki's picture

Did you even read the

Did you even read the report?

That's my question too. The report is about over $100 million federal dollars going to a company that did next to nothing. They definitely cashed the checks and posted earnings. Hiring that company at that price seems like a huge failure of leadership, even you accept Les' definition.

It also seems like a leader is responsible for making sure the hired help is trained and prepared for the job. FEMA and their contractors were not just unprepared and slow, they were obstacles. They wasted a great deal of money and effort. I remember when Republicans cared about stuff like that.

Rachel's picture

Here's my deal: Louisiana

Here's my deal:

Louisiana and New Orleans are rife with corruption. Always have been. And I don't doubt that state and local officials displayed at least some degree of incompetence during and after Katrina.

That said, I'm never gonna be depending on Governor Blanco or Mayor Nagin to save my ass in a disaster. But I damn sure expect a competent FEMA to be there to help me. That goes for every citizen in the U.S.

Which is why we all need to be concerned about FEMA.

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