Still Slighting Local Failure in New Orleans
Sundays huge lead story on Hurricane Katrina, reported by Eric Lipton, Christopher Drew, Scott Shane and David Rohde, Breakdowns Marked Path From Hurricane to Anarchy. The subhead puts the onus on the federal response: In Crisis, Federal Authorities Hesitated Local Officials Were Overwhelmed.
That angle permeates the entire story, from the opening lines on: The governor of Louisiana was blistering mad. It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived. Ms. Blanco burst into the state's emergency center in Baton Rouge. Does anybody in this building know anything about buses? she recalled crying out.
They were an obvious linchpin for evacuating a city where nearly 100,000 people had no cars. Yet the federal, state and local officials who had failed to round up buses in advance were now in a frantic hunt. It would be two more days before they found enough to empty the shelters.
Somehow, the Times manages to ignore the submergedbuses left unused by local officials, although anyone with an internet connection has had a chance to see them.
Yet the Times leaves room for an anti-Iraq crack: The Louisiana National Guard, already stretched by the deployment of more than 3,000 troops to Iraq, was hampered when its New Orleans barracks flooded. It lost 20 vehicles that could have carried soldiers through the watery streets and had to abandon much of its most advanced communications equipment, guard officials said.
The Times lets local officials berate the feds while painting themselves as helpless innocents: Oliver Thomas, the New Orleans City Council president, expressed a view shared by many in city and state government: that a national disaster requires a national response. Everybody's trying to look at it like the City of New Orleans messed up, Mr. Thomas said in an interview. But you mean to tell me that in the richest nation in the world, people really expected a little town with less than 500,000 people to handle a disaster like this? That's ludicrous to even think that.
As if New Orleans was some quaint fishing village.
Andrew Kopplin, Governor Blanco's chief of staff, took a similar position. This was a bigger natural disaster than any state could handle by itself, let alone a small state and a relatively poor one, Mr. Kopplin said. Federal officials seem to have belatedly come to the same conclusion. Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, said future ultra-catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina would require a more aggressive federal role.
Again, the Times ignores the local failures and puts the onus on the feds to deal with the New Orleans flooding, not the state and local officials who would seem to be the natural first responders: The power-sharing arrangement was by design, and as the days wore on, it would prove disastrous. Under the Bush administration, FEMA redefined its role, offering assistance but remaining subordinate to state and local governments. Our typical role is to work with the state in support of local and state agencies, said David Passey, a FEMA spokesman. With Hurricane Katrina, that meant the agency most experienced in dealing with disasters and with access to the greatest resources followed, rather than led. FEMA's deference was frustrating. Rather than initiate relief efforts - buses, food, troops, diesel fuel, rescue boats - the agency waited for specific requests from state and local officials.
For the rest of the Times big lead story on New Orleans blame, click here.
Boxing In the Ultraconservatives
Mondays Times features a stark case of political slant in its capsule profiles of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on John Roberts Supreme Court nomination starting today.
Pro-abortion Republican Sen. Arlen Specter is described as a maverick who is reviled by the right. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is a darling of conservatives. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is ultraconservative. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona is a pro-business conservative.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts is not a liberal but merely a Democratic elder statesman ( business asusual at the Times). Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York isnt liberal either, and neither is leftist Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.
Karl Rove, Foiled Again
Elisabeth Bumiller beats the drums against Bush in her Monday White House Letter, Gulf Coast Isn't the Only Thing Left in Tatters; Bush's Status With Blacks Takes Hit. (Nice metaphor, by the way.)
As usual in the papersreporting, advisor Karl Rove is Bushs consigliore, but this time his evil schemes have come a cropper: From the political perspective of the White House, Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than an enormous swath of the Gulf Coast. The storm also appears to have damaged the carefully laid plans of Karl Rove, President Bush's political adviser, to make inroads among black voters and expand the reach of the Republican Party for decades to come.
Bumiller passed along anti-Bush vitriol: The anger has invigorated the president's critics. Kanye West, the rap star, raged off-script at a televised benefit for storm victims that George Bush doesn't care about black people. Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said in Miami last week that Americans have to come to terms with the ugly truth that skin color, age and economics played a significant role in who survived and who did not.
Later she writes: One of Mr. Bush's prominent African-American supporters called the White House to say he was aghast at the images from the president's first trip to the region, on Sept. 2, when Mr. Bush stood next to Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama, both white Republicans, and praised them for a job well done. Mr. Bush did not go into the heart of New Orleans to meet with black victims.
On Saturday, Bumiller noted FEMAs Michael Browns quick reassignment while hitting Bush for not making the change even more quickly: To Democrats, Republicans, local officials and Hurricane Katrina's victims, the question was not why, but what took so long? Republicans had been pressing the White House for days to fire Brownie, Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who had stunned many television viewers in admitting that he did not know until 24 hours after the first news reports that there was a swelling crowd of 25,000 people desperate for food and water at the New Orleans convention center.
More editorializing on the federal response from Bumiller follows: Mr. Brown, who was removed from his Gulf Coast duties on Friday, though not from his post as FEMA's chief, is the first casualty of the political furor generated by the government's faltering response to the hurricane. With Democrats and Republicans caustically criticizing the performance of his agency, and with the White House under increasing attack for populating FEMA's top ranks with politically connected officials who lack disaster relief experience, Mr. Brown had become a symbol of President Bush's own hesitant response.Behind the president's public embrace of Mr. Brown was the realization within the administration that the director's ignorance about the evacuees had further inflamed the rage of the storm's poor, black victims and created an impression of a White House that did not care about their lives.
For the rest of Bumiller on Monday, click here.
To read more from Bumiller on Saturday, click here.
N.O. Survivors Foreigners in Their Own Land
Saturdays sports page offers no respite from Hurricane Katrina. Again, columnist WilliamRhoden uses the hurricane to argue liberal points in Pity the Poorest While America Waves the Flag. While the point of the column is obscure, his intentions are plain enough from the opening: As soon as it became clear that there would be an all-American semifinal match at the United States Open, John McEnroe, the CBS commentator and one of the greatest tennis players this country has produced, said he was happy that there would be an American in the final.
Rhoden says: A month ago, I would not have given McEnroe's comment a second thought and probably would have agreed, at some level, that sure, it would be great to have an American in the finals. In 1996, three Americans - Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Agassi - reached the semifinals, but there has not been an all-American final since Agassi lost to Sampras in 2002. The state of tennis in the United States has been a parlor debate, off and on, for decades. But McEnroe's innocent celebration of two Americans reaching an Open semifinal raises questions that are uncomfortable, troubling and complex. What is the significance of the accomplishment? What does it mean to be American? Which America is McEnroe celebrating?
Somehow, the presence of Americans in the U.S. Open finals has something to do with Americas response to Hurricane Katrina: The questions are especially poignant in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in United States history. More than the event itself, the reaction to the disaster has been the focus of debate and controversy. Some victims have said that they have been viewed, if not treated, like foreigners in their own land. Horrifying images since the storm have underscored the reality that there are multiple tiers of America and of Americans. The images of death, desperation, hopelessness and poverty, flushed into full view, have made many of us wonder where this America was hiding. We did not recognize it. Some of us did not even realize this America existed.
He concludes with this head-scratcher: I'm still looking forward to McEnroe's all-American semifinal. I'm just not sure anymore which America we're rooting for.
To read the rest of Rhodens strange column, click here.
Supporting the Troops? Now Theres a Controversy
Honoring the Victims While Supporting the Troops, Mondays story by Glen Justice and John Files on a 9-11 commemoration by the Pentagon, comes tilted with anti-war views.
The Times sets the scene: Striding behind a military color guard, thousands of marchers cut a broad swath through the capital on Sunday in a walk organized by the Defense Department to commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and to support American troops.
Soon enough, the Times finds controversy in the apparently non-partisan event: The event was criticized by opponents of the Iraq war as a flag-waving exercise orchestrated by the Bush administration at a time when public opinion over the war is deeply divided. The Washington Post withdrew as a sponsor of the walk last month, citing its need to maintain objectivity. Other sponsors included The Washington Times and WTOP radio in Washington. Today's so-called Freedom Walk sponsored by the Pentagon is a cynical exercise in an effort to shore up sagging support for the president and his war policy in Iraq, said Brian Becker, the national coordinator for a group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, which is organizing a large antiwar demonstration here on Sept. 24.
ANSWER has a colorfulhistory that the Times, as usual, chooses to ignore. One nugget: The group was co-founded by former Johnson administration Attorney General Ramsey Clark turned anti-American activist who is a member of Saddam Hussein's defense team.
Although the paper admits that war protesters were in short supply, it devotes the last five paragraphs of the 18-paragraph story to them.
For more from Justice and Files, click here.