Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who Wants Kool-Aid?

Jack Kelly in the Toledo Blade:

IT IS settled wisdom among journalists that the federal re­sponse to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was unconscionably slow.

“Mr. Bush’s performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever during a dire national emergency,” wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in a somewhat more strident expression of the conventional wisdom.

But the conventional wisdom is the opposite of the truth.

Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes that:

“The federal govern­ment pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne.”

For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla., after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.

Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, and roads and airports are covered with debris — and apparently have little interest in finding out.

So they libel as a “national disgrace” the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.


Exhibit A on the bill of indictment of federal sluggishness is that it took four days before most people were evacuated from the Louisiana Superdome.

The levee broke Tuesday morning. Buses had to be rounded up and driven from Houston to New Orleans across debris strewn roads. The first ones arrived Wednesday evening. That seems pretty fast to me.

A better question — which few journalists ask — is why weren’t the roughly 2,000 municipal and school buses in New Orleans utilized to take people out of the city before Katrina struck?

I dropped Mr. Kelly an e-mail:

Mr. Kelly:

I read your column.

Would you like some cookies with your Kool-Aid?

It does make me wonder what it would take for you to be objectively critical of anything the Bush administration does. I guess some people – Trent Lott, for example – have lower standards than you do. Of course, Mr. Lott can be forgiven for his outburst…he only lost a house.

By the way, Mr. Bush’s father lost his job in 1992 in part because of the slow response from FEMA in response to Hurricane Andrew. And having just finished cleaning up and getting my house back in order two weeks after being brushed by the passing of Hurricane Katrina here in Miami – don’t forget, we got it, too – I can tell you that until you’ve actually been through one, you have no clue as to what it’s like unless you’ve done it.

If you’d like to let Jack know how you feel, drop him a note, too.