Katrina Three Weeks On

Monday, September 19, 2005
Three weeks ago at just about this time everyone was breathing a sigh of relief. Katrina had narrowly missed New Orleans and serious damage seemed confined to the southern parishes and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Conditions within the Superdome had not grown intolerable at that point - at least there weren't any reports of violence on Sunday night.

Then two canal walls gave out, New Orleans flooded and what was at that point a "regular" hurricane disaster, albeit a very harsh one, became the political football of 2005. It is indisputable that Federal resources were being used beginning Tuesday morning to effectuate harrowing rescues on a continuous basis. The USCG performed magnificently all day Tuesday and was joined by other Federal resources on Wednesday. Never in history had more people been plucked to safety by helicopter than were so saved between Tuesday and Friday. LANG units were involved in rescue operations continuously beginning Tuesday morning all over southern Lousiana - except for New Orleans. The Red Cross and Salvation Army were hard at work accross the Gulf Coast providing emergency services on a vast scale and performing heroically - except in New Orleans, where Gov. Blanco refused entry to them and to the supplies which they had on hand and could have provided to the people in the Superdome and Convention Center.

As yet there has been little reportage as to the scope and success of the rescue efforts mounted Tuesday and continuing until just a few days ago. The fact that it appears at this point that the total death toll will be less than 1,000 has received little notice, even though the emergency exercise conducted by FEMA in 2004 predicted a death toll of between 10,000 and 50,000 should New Orleans be struck as it was by Katrina. Instead there has been a tireless effort on the part of the MSM to portray what was an outstanding success by any objective measure as an abject failure on the part of the Federal government and in particular upon the part of President Bush. A story of high human interest with many heroes has been spun into a sordid political tale - including a silly attempt on the part of the usual suspects to exonerate an incompetent mayor and a criminally negligent governor who may well have been acting on advice received from other Democratic politicians.

It is my contention that the only venue for a complete exploration of Katrina is a House investigatory committee. The Democrats have rejected a joint House-Senate panel and I do not believe that a commission would be anything but laughable at this point. I further believe that it would be an act of negligence on the part of the House if they do not to convene such an investigation.



I would be interested in hearing the opinions of others on this matter.

*Edited for clarification 9/20
Thanks, Flenser & Knucklehead.

8 comments:

flenser said...

Rick

As you know, the Democrats refuse to join an investigation in which the Republicans will be in the majority. Do you think their demands should be granted?

If they have subpoena power they will have Bush dragged in front of Congress and will play clips of him "ignoring the crisis" while NO flooded.

The facts are against them, but they will get their storyline out, and it is their storyline which the media will trumpet.

So as I see it, no congressional hearings unless the GOP controls them. In which case the D's will boycott.

That seems to point to some sort of independant commission as the only alternative.

Rick Ballard said...

Flenser,

First the Republicans should call the Demcorats bluff. There is no proscription that I am aware of prohibiting the majority from going ahead and establishing the joint committee - even if it means setting out empty chairs for the Democrats.

Should they lack the courage to do that (and they probably do) then a House committee can take up the examination without any changes of rules. The House is quite competent in doing so, unlike the gaggle of egos in the Senate.

Who cares what the Democrats do or what the MSM reports? They can scream whitewash to the heavens but it won't stop the Internet reporting and it certainly won't stop talk radio reporting. Personally, I'd love to see an empty chair hearing. Nagin and Blanco still couldn't avoid supoenas - and I really want to see some phone logs.

Any commission would do no better than the 9/11 commission - just a bunch of posturing and coverup.

flenser said...

Rick

I don't think the Democrats are bluffing. The hearings are going to be devastating to them, IMO, so they have every incentive to attempt to discredit them. And their propaganda arm in the media will do all they can to help.

To some extent any hearings are political theater. The intended audience here would not be people like us, but the detached and ignorant middle. I don't think many of them read the blogs or listen to talk radio.

I feel a rant coming on as to the stupidity of the GOP in not doing more to build up the blogs and radio, but I'll save it for a post.

An independant commission without politicians on it might be acceptable, at least to me.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Well said, and quite accurate as far as I can follow the story. Unfortunately, the spin and the reality have taken off in entirely different directions. What should be trumpeted worldwide as an amazing American success story is instead being played (on the cover of The Economist no less!) as an obvious case of massively shameful American behavior. The American press are worse.

Rick Ballard said...

Flenser,

Even if they are not bluffing, a call is in order. We know who is holding the high hand and the Republicans really need to play hardball on this.

Yes, it's theater - but I do want to see Blanco sweated by House members - there are some former prosecutors who are able put the Senatorial nannies to shame.

I look forward to a nice piece from you - something to raise a few blisters on Republican hides.

If for no other reason, the efforts of the USCG and military pilots plus a host of other first responders need to be lifted up.

Knucklehead said...

Rick,

I don't know enough about how congressional investigative powers are deployed to know which form is best. I'll take your word for it that joint Senate-House investigatory committee specifically empaneled for this matter only is the best form for a federal investigation and report.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There will be untold levels of investigation done. Katrina will be very deeply investigated by criminal prosecutors and defense attorneys, attornies for all parties in various civil actions, insurance experts, people who legitimately want to figure out how best to prepare and react in the future, people looking to write various books and articles...

What will be known a year from now will be far more than what is known today and the American legal and political process, nasty and chaotic as it may seem, will bring much to the public attention.

I could be wrong about this, of course. Other disasters have quickly fallen below the public radar. But no disaster has had the sheer magnitude of Katrina. She is a new girl on the block and I believe people will be unable to stop looking her over.

Rick Ballard said...

Knuck,

I wasn't being clear about my preference. The political Kabuki requires that the Reps call for a "joint committee investigation", the Dem coverup artists reply with a demand for an "independent commission". Both sides rebuke the other with coverup charges but if the Reps hold firm then the investigation returns to the "normal" business of the Congressional Clown Corps and hearings are held both by the Senate and by the House. I have no respect whatsoever for Senate oversight committees or their investigations (vide OFF). I do have a modicum of respect for House investigations because their are more House members with actual investigative/prosecutorial experience and they tend to play hardball much better than do the Senatorial grandees.

The appropriate venue is the Homeland Security Committee under Peter King. If it were my choice I'd pick Michael McCaul to head the investigative team on the Rep side.

It is my speculation that Hilary & C. were heavily involved in advising Blanco no later than the Friday before Katrina struck. The whole DeMSM response on this matter reeks of the Clinton/Carville "War Room". Bubba himself was spinning like a top on Sunday and I believe that it was preemptive cover for what's heading toward Miz Hilary.

Knucklehead said...

Rick,

I have developed great faith in you astuteness re: the political machinations involved. Unfortunately I have no Rep representatives to drop a line to wrt this. All my reps are Dems and they'll be front and center doing the ol' stiff arm.

I will, however, compose a little mail and drop it to each of them suggesting that it is time to rise above petty politics and do what is right for the American public; i.e, have an honest look at what happened, who broke down in handling their responsibilities, how to fix the weak spots, etc. and that the proper forum for that, IMHO, is the one you suggest.

All that said, I suspect the Republicans in the congress, both houses, have yet to come to grips with their majority status. They are still behaving as if they were the minority party in too many cases. Some of this is, I suspect, the residue of being the majority party for so long - they just don't know how to play hardball and the biggest recent example they have of trying is the Gingrich fiasco when they got their butts kicked by Bubba in the "shut down the government" nonsense.

They are too busy tiptoeing around afraid of being labeled as "mean spirited". There is nothing mean-spirited about figuring out who the heck screwed up wrt NOLA, and even the entire Katrina response, slapping those responsible upside their heads, and tightening up the system. The result would be an improvement that would be beneficial to all Americans but especially to the "unfortunates who can't help themselves".

The trick seems to be in waking the Republicans up to this.