Pointing Fingers

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Sept. 2 2005 6:34 PM

Pointing Fingers

As the plight of Hurricane Katrina's victims grows more desperate, bloggers are clamoring to point blame at the various levels of government, from the mayor of New Orleans to the president.

Noting that some liberal blogs are "savaging Bush," Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse notes that, "What's missing is criticism of state and local government. Justified outrage about the response to Katrina is — not surprisingly — merged with the usual partisan politics. On the other side, people are excusing Bush and putting all the blame on state and local government. How hard is it to play it straight here? I'm going to try."

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While liberals have honed in on President Bush's cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers' budget, EU Rota, a libertarian blogger from Washington, D.C., who usually focuses on EU politics, has delved into LexisNexis to show that President Clinton considered levee-building a "local problem," not a federal issue. "The post is not a slam on President Clinton, it merely shows that his administration was not exactly tackling the flood-control issue in Louisiana," he writes. "… No amount of money can guarantee the risk-free existence so craved by the US Left."

Conservative PowerLine's John Hindraker has posted a letter from a former volunteer firefighter in Florida who lived through hurricanes Frances and Jeanne who says disaster preparedness starts with local personnel. "It's up to local and state people to tell the feds what they need and to run the emergency command centers, not just throw their arms up in the air and start blaming everyone else," Jim Ouly writes. "I find all the hand wringing by the talking heads and news readers almost obscene."

One emerging issue is whether the post-Sept. 11 creation of the Department of Homeland Security—which absorbed the Federal Emergency Management Agency—has weakened FEMA.

"How is it that the Department of Homeland Security absorbed FEMA … without taking on its responsibilities for planning and dealiing with emergencies?" writes Texas blogger M. Sinclair Stevens at Words Into Bytes. "What if this had been a nuclear or chemical attack on multiple cities? What is your city's emergency and evacuation plan? How does it deal with people who are unable to evacuate themselves because they lack transportation or are infirm?"

"You know the part that creeps me out about this?" writes commenter Todd Tyrtle on Nobody Knows Anything. "The department responsible for much of the response to this is Homeland Security. Yes, the one that is supposed to protect everyone in the event of a tragedy bigger than 9/11. … Here they had, in essence, a planned attack with days of warning to get their shit together and respond and this is the result."

The mayor of New Orleans, meanwhile, went ballistic today, imploring the feds in an expletive-laden interview to "get off your asses and do something."

The rant was one of the hottest topics in the blogosphere by midafternoon. "The desperation in the Mayor's voice has put this relief effort in a new light for me," writesDigital Rendezvous. "Before the interview I assumed, like most, that the wheels were in motion and that help was on the way and that this nightmare for our fellow countrymen would soon be over. Apparently I assumed wrong. FEMA 'is' doing something, but they are by no means, doing it fast enough or in large enough scale. I am not impressed."

It's the mayor who has left others unimpressed. "Nagin is, to say the least, no Rudy Guiliani," writes R. Cox at the National Debate. "I watched the press conference on Sunday where he personally directed New Orleans residents to the Superdome all the while knowing the City had not pre-positioned enough supplies and could not provide adequate security for the 30,000 people he said they could accomodate."