Thursday, September 08, 2005


I think this will be the last thing I post about Katrina. For starters, I no longer trust any of the information out there. Furthermore, reports have catalogued such a variety of failures that there is something there to confirm just about everyone's bias, so I seriously doubt any observers will actually look at the world differently now (i.e. learn any lessons).

The biggest argument that has not been made, at least not at all persuasively, is that a lack of resources contributed to the tragedy (exception that proves the rule: the lack of a trillion-dollar 50-foot high levee system). I hope citizens keep this in mind in the months ahead. I fully expect that the incompetence of individuals within government, and various rules and procedures, will end up bearing most of the blame, rather than the institution itself. I think that's wrong, but again, I have no illusions that I'll change anyone's mind.

Taking the cake for bizarre non-sequiturs, though, has got to be the op-ed in today's WSJ by Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.). It was cited approvingly by Rich Lowry at The Corner and by Instapundit; I'm utterly confused.

In short, he goes through a handful of anecdotes about how bureaucracy failed thus far, and how private interests filled the void. Great, but then he drops this:
That's why we need, in the future, a single, strong leader with the power to override the normal process restrictions and get things done. That individual must be identified from the very beginning.

Wha? Does anyone reading this have the foggiest idea what he's proposing? That's not a rhetorical question - what is he talking about? There's that guy, George whatsisname, whose job relates to being a single strong leader. Is Jindal suggesting he doesn't have enough power right now? Even if he's arguing that "federalism doesn't work" without using those words: is he really suggesting that the reason the disaster response failed in various ways is that the authorities didn't have enough authority? In the immortal words of John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious!" Furthermore, if the "normal process restrictions" need to be overridden in a crisis, why do they exist at all? We're talking about FEMA, the military, National Guard, and the police here: do they really labour under reams of regulations designed for non-crisis times?

Here's the second half of the paragraph excerpted above:
But below that person, other individuals up and down the line need to know they can make obvious and sensible calls in an emergency.

I weep for the future when a guy who, by many accounts, is one of the brightest young people in politics somehow thinks that the two halves of that paragraph complement each other. Mr. Jindal, if you really want things to work better next time, use that paragraph as your guiding principle. Just delete everything before the word "individuals", and the words "up and down the line", and you've got yourself a good start. At least we won't hear about things like the Salvation Army being barred from evacuating their own care centre.


At 9:39 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he may be suggesting - albeit in a seriously backassward way - that there needs to be a more powerful (and possibly experienced in something other than pony shows) FEMA or disaster management leader at whom the buck actually stops. GWB has passed the buck on all the Katrina problems, and no one else seems to be a serious candidate for "leader" in this particular response situation. Whether this can actually work in conjunction with state officials making reasonable decisions on their own - like giving a dying baby a drink of water WITHOUT the requisite paperwork - is summed up by his "ask for forgiveness" line.
Your argument with sacamano the other day brings up the point that individuals absolutely need to be intimately involved with their own emergency response, but a clear plan which outlines what is expected of people and what is expected of each level of government would help tremendously and again, point clearly to the areas which failed. As you point out here, there have been so many failures at so many levels that it is impossible to define what even needs to be fixed for next time (at this point playing the blame game is useless - we need to identify where the failures took place in order to FIX THEM).


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