Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Lake George: Did Death in New Orleans happen because the citizens are mostly Democrats? Or because they are mostly Black?

True to form, the president’s hatchet man, Karl Rove, began executing a public relations effort over the weekend to shift blame for the administration’s failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina onto hard-pressed state and local officials in New Orleans and Louisiana. Although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had been granted full authority to coordinate relief efforts and assistance prior to the disastrous hurricane, administration officials failed to effectively use their authority to provide swift and comprehensive relief efforts when it mattered most.

In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.

"The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials," Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials."

That line of argument was echoed throughout the day, in harsher language, by Republicans reflecting the White House line.

However, this line of argument contradicts the Administrations assertions prior to the Hurricane:

* The Bush administration took full responsibility for coordinating the rescue and relief efforts days before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The White House effort to shift the blame for the response to Katrina contradicts their public statements before the storm hit. An August 27 declaration on the White House website "authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts" The order specifies that "FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency." Jane Bullock, former FEMA chief of staff, said "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility…The federal government took ownership over the response."

* Despite this clear authority, administration officials failed to properly execute their duties to protect and assist citizens in New Orleans and other areas. As levees broke, flood waters rose, and thousands of people became stranded in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, Bush administration officials were bickering about lines of authority and bureaucratic red tape. Although there were clear ways to get people out of New Orleans and provide medical and relief support for those left behind, DHS and FEMA failed in their basic duty to aid and assist victims of the hurricane.

* In a further slap to the face, President Bush and Karl Rove are trying to shift the blame for their own incompetence and negligence during this crisis. Bush and Rove are trying to claim now that state officials in Louisiana were "slow to call for outside help." The reality is that Louisiana state officials reached out to the federal government for assistance before the storm hit but got little in return. On August 27, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco sent a detailed letter to President Bush requesting assistance because "this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster."

Bush is the only pig in the sty that has no mud on him.
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