Tags: Too | Early | Hold | Officials | Responsible?

Too Early to Hold Officials Responsible?

Wednesday, 07 September 2005 12:00 AM

In the first catastrophe, there was no warning and the actions of the first responders - police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel - were exemplary. The actions of the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, set the bar high for future public officials in similar situations.

On 9/11, federal government officials acted magnificently. At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was on the scene leading those assisting the wounded, doing what Mayor Giuliani was doing in lower Manhattan. President Bush visited Ground Zero three days after 9/11, rallying New York and the nation.

What was missing in New Orleans, the center of the Hurricane Katrina maelstrom, was the presence of President Bush on the ground. He was, instead, on Air Force One, circling the city, captured by a cameraman on board peering at the devastation from a window.

The President failed us; and, apparently, his staff failed him in not providing the advice and support needed at the time. In moments of danger and fear, all of us look to someone for help. The public looks to our elected leaders to be there, to hold our hand, figuratively or literally, to tell us they will protect us, lead us and we need not be afraid.

Primary responsibility for protecting the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans lies with the governor and the mayor. According to Louisiana's own mandatory evacuation plan, transportation was to be provided for all who needed it. Governor Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin failed utterly to implement their own plan.

But the major failure, as is summed up in an Italian proverb, "the fish stinks from the head," was that of the President who, were he adequately responding, would have been on the scene in New Orleans on day one, on the ground, in a vehicle, going everywhere, boosting people's spirits so that word would spread to those trapped without food or water that they were not abandoned and to hold out, knowing the President was there physically and the cavalry was on its way.

Were we called upon in a similar situation to help in Kosovo, Darfur, Somalia, Bangladesh or elsewhere overseas, I have no doubt that we would have been on the scene immediately with hundreds of helicopters, thousands of troops, and food and water in abundance. No physical obstacles would have been too tough for us to overcome. We would have immediately provided rescue vehicles. The army would have been put in charge, as was ultimately done in New Orleans five days late.

The actions of the first responders on 9/11 and our public figures showed what could and should be done during a catastrophe. Leadership was present. The response to New Orleans was bereft of leadership, with levels of government blaming each other.

A commission is needed to examine this fiasco. The failure in the U.S. government's response to the hurricane that leveled New Orleans, decimated the Mississippi delta and the Gulf coast of Alabama was monumental and a national tragedy. In addition to an absent president, the vice president, Dick Cheney, remained on vacation. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was nowhere to be found. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and the head of FEMA, Michael D. Brown, held press conferences; but they failed to take necessary actions to alleviate the pain and suffering of those in the hurricane's wake, including a total failure to provide transportation to evacuate the poor, particularly in New Orleans.

The elected representatives of the people from the storm-ravaged states, including the governors, senators and members of congress failed to adequately demand and obtain the involvement of the federal government. Indeed, the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, and one U.S. senator from that state, Trent Lott, initially praised the response of the federal government.

Regrettably, there are those in our country who are delighted that the President failed our fellow citizens, preferring him to fail for their own political reasons. Shame on them. There are some who prefer to ascribe racism to his actions (or, more accurately, inactions), rather than berate his incompetence and that of his appointees in the chain of command. A false charge of racism is an outrage as bad as racism itself.

Is it too early to hold incompetent officials responsible? No, it is timely to do so. Those who were appointed, e.g., Chertoff and Brown, should be fired summarily for their patently gross dereliction of duty in failing to provide transportation for the poor and failing to provide food, water and security for those unable to evacuate.

A commission modeled on the 9/11 Commission should be appointed at once. If the President declines to cooperate, congress should authorize a congressional commission. Those who bear responsibility and hold elective office will be held responsible by the voters in the federal elections of 2006.


© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

1Like our page
In the first catastrophe, there was no warning and the actions of the first responders - police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel - were exemplary. The actions of the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, set the bar high for future public officials in...
Wednesday, 07 September 2005 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved