Friday, September 09, 2005

Hurricane Politics: The Chiles' Gambit...


"Disasters are very political events."
-FEMA Director James Witt, congressional testimony, April 30, 1996

Major Garret of the Fox News Channel has been exposing a disturbing aspect of Hurricane Katrina response efforts that the rest of the Old Busted Media is ignoring. In a series of breaking stories, Garret demonstrates that both the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army were prevented by local distaster officials - LOCAL OFFICIALS - from providing emergency relief supplies of food and water to the major refuge centers. Garret spoke about this story with Hugh Hewitt on his show both yesterday and today. Hugh summarizes the story on his website as follows,

The Fox News Channel's Major Garrett made another appearance on the program this evening, following up on his blockbuster story yesterday. Among other things,
Garrett got confirmation from the head of the Red cross --on camera-- of the Louisiana State Department of Homeland Security's blocking of the delivery of relief supplies to the Superdome and the Convention Center. In addition, Garrett received confirmation from senior Salvation Army officials in Washington, D.C. that the Salvation Army's efforts at supplying the evacuees were also repeatedly blocked.
Radioblogger will have the transcript up later,

Here is the transcript of yesterday's interview. If you did not hear the interview or see Garret's Fox segment, read them both over at Radioblogger.

Incompetence, disorganization, bureaucratic paralysis... or inadvertant malice? All of these are possible explanations for the actions of local officials, but not one is a legitimate excuse for the devastation that resulted from their actions. And one has to assume that if this was the condition of the local response at the emergency shelters, city and state reponses throughout Louisiana to Katrina's disaster was equally deplorable. Is it any wonder that these same officials began feigning righteous indignation in an effort to obfuscate the reality of their own poor judgment. For as nature's impact passed and the subsequent calamity of malfeasance began, the world was a witness to a crime unfolding before their eyes.

Furthermore, there is an additional aspect of Garret's story that begs the attention of the curious students of history. And while everyone is entertaining the seductive folly of hindsight, do let's turn the
'wayback machine' way back to 1992 and Hurricane Andrew. In an MSNBC story by national affairs writer Tom Curry, posted August of last year, entitled,"In election year, hurricanes, too, are political," the author reviews the 1992 criticism of Bush the elder's delayed aid for Florida.

President Bush and his brother Jeb, Florida’s governor, know the lessons of August 1992, when their father, President George H.W. Bush, reacted too slowly with federal aid to help speed recovery after Hurricane Andrew ravaged Florida.

The now-famous quote that August from Dade County's emergency operations director, Kate Hale — “Where in the hell is the cavalry on this one? For God's sake, where are they?'' — summed up the frustration that many people in Florida voiced in the days after Andrew hit. (Some of Floridians’ anger was also directed at then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, who delayed asking for federal troops.) [emphasis mine]

Mentioned as an end note, was the fact that the Governor of Florida delayed the necessary request for aid from Federal authorities (FEMA). The blame, however, was deliberatly pinned on the President both at the time, and again by Mr. Curry even in retrospect. Implied in the story, is the Democrat's (and MSM's) tendency to make a political issue out of a delay in disaster response. Considering the criticism at the time, the evidence exists to suggest that Governor Chiles deliberately delayed such requests for Federal assistance in order to fabricate a political issue for the Democrats in an election year. Do let's recall that Bush the elder lost that election to Bill Clinton.

With that in mind, consider the current contentious political environment. Then take note of an active upcoming legislative season, with open and extreme animosity on the part of Democrats for the current Republican President. One must wonder if Katrina presented a tempting, albeit dangerous, gamble for local officials; a gambit perhaps floated by the political leadership. Granted this foray into speculation is unsupported to date by factual verification, the circumstantial and historical evidence is enough to beg serious consideration.

Consider for instance, this story from The American Spectator archives, from September 1996,
"FEMA Money! Come & Get It!" describing the infamous history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

FEMA was the brainchild of Jimmy Carter, who announced plans in 1978 to form afederal agency to cope with disasters. Before 1950, other than sporadic flood and other disaster relief provided by Congress in special appropriations bills, there was no consistent federal relief effort. That year, however, Congress passed a law giving the president the power and discretion to determine when a disaster had occurred and how much aid Washington would provide. From that point on, federal disaster involvement slowly expanded until March 30, 1979, whenPresident Carter, spurred to action by the Three Mile Island nuclear debacle, issued an executive order to create FEMA. The new agency was to be an amalgam ofthe Civil Defense Preparedness Agency, the Federal Disaster AssistanceAdministration, the Federal Preparedness Agency, the Federal Insurance Administration, and the National Fire and Control Administration.

Within just five weeks, the Washington Post was reporting that the new agency was already a shambles: "The air is thick with memos, counter-memos andcriticisms alleging that the new anti-disaster agency is on the verge of becoming a disaster itself."

From 1979 to the late 1980's, FEMA stumbled from one boondoggle to the next. It carried out the Environmental Protection Agency's infamous buyout of all the homes in Times Beach, Missouri--after the EPA had mistakenly concluded that trace elements of dioxin in some of the dirt in town were a deadly threat.Press coverage of FEMA during these years was pretty much summarized by this1984 New York Times headline, "A Disaster Agency's Image Disaster."...

But the event that truly transformed the agency into a federal behemoth was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated southern Florida in August 1992. Though the storm left an estimated 160,000 people homeless, and destroyed or damaged 82,000 businesses, Gov. Lawton Chiles initially refused to request federal aid to clean up the $30 billion worth of damage (far greater than the figure for the Northridge, California earthquake of 1994). It was not until Bush TransportationSecretary Andrew Card implored Chiles to request FEMA assistance that the governor asked for the region to be declared a disaster area. [emphasis mine]

Bush honored the request, but the agency proceeded to bungle the relief effort. For several days, thousands of people were left searching for food and water. Victims of the storm quickly resorted to gallows humor, posting makeshift signs in front of their ruined homes: "What do George Bush and Hurricane Andrew have in common? They're both natural disasters." Even a visit to Florida by FEMAboard member Marilyn Quayle was not enough to reverse public opinion.

Sound familiar? Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters demonstrates the risks of the Chiles' Gambit by illustrating how even a seemingly brief delay during a distaster, can lead to cataclysmic results (HT: OKIE on the LAM):

ABC also asked Governor Kathleen Blanco’s office about their response to the evacuation. They responded that they never asked for evacuation assistance from the federal government as part of their interaction with FEMA, only for assistance with shelter and provisions. They assumed that the city of New Orleans had followed its own evacuation plan. [Emphasis mine]

That assumption wound up costing lives. Did they ask Nagin if his administration had followed the plan, and if so, what kind of response did they get?If ABC’s report is correct, then the feds may not have known of the evacuation breakdown until the flood on Tuesday made it a critical situation — and then were forced to respond by getting the correct assets in place within 72 hours for evacuation while almost all the roads and bridges were unusable. By that time, FEMA had begun to use what roadways were left open to move in the supplies and temporary shelter they had prestaged in the area. The feds would have had to quickly shift to a massive evacuation effort instead, a difficult and time-consuming transformation.

I repeat for emphasis... "they responded that they never asked for evacuation assistance from the federal government as part of their interaction with FEMA, only for assistance with shelter and provisions." And yet, Major Garret demonstrates that relief organizations acting in conjunction with Federal emergency response efforts, could not get those provisions to survivors in the city of New Orleans.

Consider for a moment, the morning of Monday August 29th. Hurricane Katrina, a category 5+ event on a direct course for the City of New Orleans shifts east, and is sheared by a wave of dry air reducing her intensity to a low category 4. The News networks report her weaknening. She makes landfall east of the city, thrusting the brunt of a massive anti-cyclonic storm surge (right to left in the northern hemisphere) into the Mississippi coast at places like Gulf Port and Biloxi. The News networks report New Orleans to have dodged a bullet. Meanwhile, the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama are noticeable devastated and local and Federal emergency services respond immediately. Rescues take place throughout Monday night and into the week that followed. Federal and private relief personnel and supplies start pouring into those areas. That night, Fox's Shephard Smith is chatting with revelers in the French Quarter on camera, proudly defiant of nature's wraith. Experts are paradeing across network coverage chastizing the doomsayers for
predicting the worst proclaiming that New Orleans dodge another bullet.

What happened Tuesday?

The Big Easy was real easy as people emerged to survey the damage. Meanwhile, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, had pre-positioned a litteral vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items in expectation of disaster relief, according to Major Garret. But, they were denied from delivering those shipments to the local refuges. Why?

Do let's recall the 1996 testimony of FEMA director James Witt, "Disasters are very political events." In light of a bullet dodged, perhaps Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco considered upward pressure (ala Governor Chiles) to delay relief requests for a few dozen hours. Might we imagine the leader of the DNC, Howard Dean, advising party officials that a delay of request would be politically expedient to seed the issue of Federal confusion and thus establish the charge of the Administration's incompetence with emergency response efforts? It worked before. As with President George Bush the elder, political blame could be nailed to the feet of Bush the younger. And, in recognition of a lighter disaster than was expected, the human expense from delay could be kept to a minimum...

... at least until the levee along the 17th Street canal, collapsed, pouring the fetid contents of Lake Pontchartrain into the depression of New Orleans.

That's when the political gambit turned into a calamity beyond control. See Major Mike's previous post to get a glympse of the sysiphian task at hand for FEMA officials in the wake of the storm. When expectations failed miserably, the natural tragedy became a man-made travesty. And it became a political CYA for Democrats aided by all willing accomplises in the Old Busted Media still intent to pin the tale of blame, not on the guilty donkey, but on the noble elephant. Now it was no longer convenient. It was imperative to conceal their own malfeasance on the part of Nagin, Blanco, and
Landrieu - both situational and historical

Incompetence, disorganization, bureaucratic paralysis... or inadvertant malice? Regardless, the official Democrat strategy never changed. If they cannot gain legitimate political control of this nation, they will seize upon tragedy and the misery of victimhood to generate a fury of their own and rip America to shreds. That is malice! And the question the nation must ask, is how deep does that malice extend. With a party that openly dismisses the virtue of moral principle, to what extent are any means justified by their ends?

We may never know if the Chiles' Gambit was played here with Katrina. Barring an honest assessment of the situation in its aftermath by the Mainstream Media, and members of Congress the truth will never be known about the full details of the response. And that will never happen as long as the irrational voices like Jack Cafferty's speak for cable news, the juvenile conjecture of Campbell Brown speaks for the networks, the knee jerks like Tancredo speak for Republicans, and as long as the Democrats embrace the rhetorical vitriol of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as a replacement for statesmenship. And problems in emergency coordination will continue to be camouflaged by hurricane politics until the next great disaster claims more lives and opens a breech that can never be closed.

The number of dead have yet to be counted along the Gulf Coast, yet this is the number that the Associated Press, the Left and their willling accomplises in the media have been consumed with all along, lending further evidence to the indictment that Democrats played an obscene game with people in peril in order to fabricate a political disaster.

No comments: