Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bush: "What Went Right and What Went Wrong"

"I'll lead an investigation into what went right and what went wrong," President George Bush said Tuesday, following criticism of the government's actions in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Who: The Committee Charged with the Hurricane Katrina Investigation
What: The First Day of Meetings
Where: The White House
When: Sometime in the future
President Bush: "OK, let's start with what went right. Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?"

Like millions of other people, I have been horrified, dismayed, shocked and disappointed at the U.S. goverment's mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. It is unbelievable to me how wholly incompetent the federal government responded to the disaster. When watching the scenes from New Orleans, I had to keep reminding myself that this was the United States of America, not some far-flung country with questionable infrastructure and a corrupt government.

The whole point of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to coordinate the response to disasters like this one. In a BBC News Special last night, they ran video of President Bush praising FEMA DirectorMichael Brown, to whom he bestowed the nickname, "Brownie." But how in the world can he seriously say he's doing, "One heck of a job." I'll say he's doing a heck of a job, just not in a good way.

Before joining the agency four years ago, Brown, an attorney from Oklahoma, had no experience with emergency relief. [In reading the New York Times profile of him, I have discovered that he and I share a birthday. Weird.] From 1991 to 2001, he was commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, and was in charge of rule enforcement at its horse shows. How does that experience prepare one for emergency relief?

Someone needs to be accountable for this disaster, and at the top of my list would be Brown. (At the very top of my wish list would be President Bush, but I think that would just be greedy). It's the same lesson I try to teach to my sons: you have to be held responsible for the things you do wrong. The same should be true of the government official at the top of the organizational chart in charge of federal emergencies.

Adding insult to injury, Barbara Bush, the former first lady and the president's mother, said on NPR's Marketplace Tuesday that some of the hurricane survivors might be better off. After meeting some of the survivors in Houston's Astrodome she said, "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. So this is working very well for them." [Read the full New York Times story about what she said here]

In what way is losing all of your possessions, having to flee your home and losing contact with friends and family, "Working very well for them?" Many of these survivors may have been poor, but you could argue that makes whatever things they did have were that much more precious.

George Clooney has just donated $1 million to the United Way's hurricane relief effort. If you'd like to be like George, or impress George, or know someone who would, Amazon is accepting donations for the American Red Cross. Unlike FEMA, they seem to be managing the crisis quite well.


Anne P. said...

I shudder to think what Babs REALLY said about those Hurricane survivors in the privacy of her own home. Unbelievable.

Michelle Mitchell said...

I think you have said it all really maureen. Very sad indeed.

Kathryn said...

I was all prepared to help out with the evacuees who came to Philadelphia. Were supposed to be 1,000 but only 38 showed up. Who can blame them? They have lost everything, spent days in chaos and are now getting shipped all over the country.

This story is giving me LOTS to discuss in my Media Ethics class.

One of the most chilling things to come out of this tragedy was how it was predicted, years ago. Here is the link for the series written by the New Orleans newspaper - in 2002.