Thursday, September 15, 2005

Perspective makes all the difference

Funny, but losing one's home can change one's perspective.

For example, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who lost his home in hurricane Katrina (along with about a million other people) has admitted that it was a mistake to put FEMA in the Department of Homeland Security.

Now, Trent was downright embarrassed two weeks ago when President Bush showed up at the ruins and joked about how nice it would be to sit on Sen. Lott's porch when he rebuilds it (Lott recently blamed Bush for helping to engineer his loss of the majority leader's job over racially insensitive remarks three years ago). Probably he was embarrassed by being singled out when so many others suffered the same loss.

But considering that Lott helped to move FEMA to the DHS, his change of heart is significant. He has seen firsthand how, even today (if you read the article you will find this) there are STILL people in Mississippi waiting for FEMA to arrive. In fact, the destruction of coastal Mississippi and the agonizingly slow response time has been all but ignored by the media focusing on New Orleans (as well, recently, by the White House since they don't have the convenience of a Democratic Governor they can blame FEMA's late arrival on).

Lott has now seen first hand that the effect of subordinating FEMA's role to that of the new agency, combined with its having an incompetent head, has made it ineffective.

The role of Government is to protect the state and its citizens, and he has now realized that it no longer does this.


Mark said...

Large Government bureaucracies like FEMA never can be expected to act quickly. You can't ask a turtle to actually win a race.

The Department of Homeland security is just another level of bureaucracy that would slow FEMA down further. What president bush should have done after 9/11 is enact the patriot act like he did but then leave the FBI, CIA, NSA etc to do their jobs. We didn't need another department.

Out here in Arizona, the local populace wasn't impressed by FEMA during the Rodeo Chedisky fire either. I can only imagine that there is no way FEMA can accomodate all the needs of the Katrina disaster in any manner of timeliness.

At some point we'll have to start throwing money to the states, then Bush will get criticized for his "lack of oversight".

Bush has had it tough. 9/11 and now Katrina. I hope the next president has an easier go.

Karen said...

And yet he voted AGAINST an independent investigation on the blunders of the Gulf Disaster - is he up for re-election next year? hmmm

dorsano said...

When we elect people who think government can't do much good, it seems sort of silly to expect them to do much good while they govern.

dorsano said...

Five of eight top FEMA officials have/had virtually no experience in handling disasters. They lead/led an agency that has cut experienced crisis managers from it's staff since 9/11.

The top three people: Brown, Rhode and Altshuler all have ties to Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.

A former lieutenant governor (R) of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who used to be a political operative are two of the other senior operational people.

Clinton appointed his own cronies to FEMA so Bush isn't breaking any new ground here - but Clinton's cronies had experience in disaster management.

FEMA's had a mixed record and a changing mission. It was gutted during Reagan and slowly built up by Clinton to where it had an annual budget of $644 million and 2,500 staff which is not a giant as far as federal government goes.

But the world has changed since 9/11 and once again, we've seen a failure of imagination from the top levels of our government - and in this case, from an administration that made national security the center piece of its promise to us.

Eli Blake said...
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Eli Blake said...


Bush has had a run of disasters, but in between 9/11 and Katrina, he has had another, purely of his own making.

The war in Iraq has cost $250 billion to date (dwarfing the $40 billion price tag for 9/11 and comparable to the estimates of the Katrina price tag), and in fact one could argue that it contributed to the severity of Katrina. You might find the quote by Mr. Maestri in my post about 'unnecessary spending' a real eye opener, especially since it was made on June 8, 2004-- more than a year ago.