Captain's Quarters Blog

« Zimmerman Following In Herron's Footsteps? (Update!) | Main | Gonzalez Charm Offensive Begins »

September 10, 2005
Exempt Media Begins To Understand Federalism

The Washington Post has started to ask the same questions as Fox News and ABC did earlier this week in an analysis of the response to Hurricane Katrina. Robert Pierre reports in a piece titled in part, "Assessing Leadership", that Mayor Ray Nagin now faces many questions about his role in the fumbled disaster response -- and that his own underlings say that the answers will expose him as an incompetent:

Mayor C. Ray Nagin created many new friends and probably as many enemies for his decision to pointedly chastise both Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) and the Bush administration for talking too much and working too little. Now, however, difficult questions are being directed at the mayor. ...

Around the world, particularly in places where Bush is unpopular, Nagin is now recognized for refusing to back down against Bush. But with federal forces providing security in a largely vacant city and attention turning toward what it will take to rebuild, it is Nagin who is getting the tough questions.

Should there have been a better plan to evacuate those without cars? Was his police force up to the task? Why weren't there supplies for the legions of people directed to the Superdome? Why were all those city buses left in low-lying areas? Why did so many of his officers leave their posts as the city descended into a chaos that left many residents afraid that either thugs or the elements would kill them?

On conservative talk radio, especially, Nagin has been characterized as an irrational and incompetent local official who lost control of his city, his police force and, ultimately, his senses when he publicly dressed down the president. Even some of his underlings think the critics may be right.

"He should have evacuated the place earlier," said one city firefighter, echoing a mostly whispered sentiment here as the collection of dead bodies begins in earnest. The firefighter asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Unfortunately, the rest of this article lets Nagin off the hook. Pierre never bothers to mention that all of his questions could find answers in the New Orleans hurricane emergency plan -- a plan that Nagin didn't follow at all. Instead, Pierre focuses on the image of a poor city mayor who has tilted quixotically at the Great Windmill of the Bush administration, and that will suffer slings and arrows as a result:

Now his strong criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies has earned him more than a few enemies, said Robert Hogan, an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. "In this crisis, some of his comments have done him a huge disservice," Hogan said. "Some of his comments come across as a crackpot. To me, he's just exasperated, but he may not be viewed that way in Washington." ...

But Hogan said it would be unwise for any of them, especially Nagin, to keep the fight going.

"The Bush administration has the upper hand because they have the apparatus in place to come up with fingers to point," he said. "They have surrogates. They have a huge network that can help them through talk radio and national radio. They have talking points. State and local governments in Louisiana aren't in the propaganda mode. They don't have the ability to fight back. They are in the rescue and rebuilding mode."

They also have the truth on their side, which is that those in charge of the first responders -- the city and state governments -- failed to follow their own published plans for the emergency, and then failed to cooperate with the federal government when they did arrive. They essentially froze like deer in the headlights when they should have opened up the plans they drew up themselves and started running them like a playbook.

The federal relief, which coordinates with state and local officials based on the emergency planning done earlier, planned their response on the expectation that those tasks would have been handled prior to the storm hitting the city. Instead, what they saw was a city mayor who had done nothing but order an evacuation too late to be effective, fail to expedite it with resources specifically named in the plan, and then run around getting hysterical for the press. Pierre also neglects to mention that the feds cannot simply take over a city or a state without the governor's permission under current law unless they are in a state of rebellion.

Perhaps federalism might be too much for the Post to chew in one attempt, but at least they have begun asking the right questions.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 10, 2005 8:33 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Exempt Media Begins To Understand Federalism:

» Nagin Finally Faces Criticism from The Strata-Sphere
I am not sure why it is happening, the some in the media are starting to challenge Nagin, and hopefully soon Blanco, on how they totally screwed up. Today’s Washington Post tries to sugar-coat some incredible statements and events which should ... [Read More]

Tracked on September 10, 2005 10:45 AM

» Kathleen Blanco's state government to blame? from
Haven't seen the Louisiana governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco in public for a number of days. Perhaps she's laying low. While a lot of the federal-level hand wringing about Michael Brown, FEMA, et al is legitimate -- it appers a huge [Read More]

Tracked on September 10, 2005 11:33 AM

» WAPO - "Mayor Nagin, Got a few questions for you" from Macmind - Conservative Commentary and Common Sense
In the Army we had a saying, "There is no such thing as a 'born leader'". In a previous post I speculated that the MSM was afraid to go after Mayor Nagin's incompetance before and during and even after Katrina, more or less because of 'PC' reasons. T... [Read More]

Tracked on September 10, 2005 12:08 PM

Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!