Editorials, Including Those at Conservative Papers, Rip Bush’s Hurricane Response

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By: E&P Staff

Editorials from around the country on Friday — including at the Bush-friendly Dallas Morning News and The Washington Times — have, by and large, offered harsh criticism of the official and military response to the disaster in the Gulf Coast. Here’s a sampling.

Dallas Morning News

As a federal official in a neatly pressed suit talked to reporters in Washington about “little bumps along the road” in emergency efforts, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued an urgent SOS. The situation near the convention center was chaotic; not enough buses were available to evacuate thousands of survivors, and the streets were littered with the dead.

Moments later, President Bush took center stage and talked at length about the intricacies of energy policy and plans to keep prices stable. Meanwhile, doctors at hospitals called the Associated Press asking to get their urgent message out: We need to be evacuated, we’re taking sniper fire, and nobody is in charge.

Who is in charge?

Losing New Orleans to a natural disaster is one thing, but losing her to hopeless gunmen and a shameful lack of response is unfathomable. How is it that the U.S. military can conquer a foreign country in a matter of days, but can’t stop terrorists controlling the streets of America or even drop a case of water to desperate and dying Americans?

President Bush, please see what’s happening. The American people want to believe the government is doing everything it can do — not to rebuild or to stabilize gas prices — just to restore the most basic order. So far, they are hearing about Herculean efforts, but they aren’t seeing them.

***

The Washington Times

Troops are finally moving into New Orleans in realistic numbers, and it’s past time. What took the government so long? The thin veneer separating civilization and chaos, which we earlier worried might collapse in the absence of swift action, has collapsed.

We expected to see, many hours ago, the president we saw standing atop the ruin of the World Trade Center, rallying a dazed country to action. We’re pleased he finally caught a ride home from his vacation, but he risks losing the one trait his critics have never dented: His ability to lead, and be seen leading.

He returns to the scene of the horror today, and that’s all to the good. His presence will rally broken spirits. But he must crack heads, if bureaucratic heads need cracking, to get the food, water and medicine to the people crying for help in New Orleans and on the Mississippi coast. The list of things he has promised is a good list, but there is no time to dally, whether by land, sea or air. We should have delivered them yesterday. Americans are dying.

***

Philadelphia Inquirer (and other Knight Ridder papers)

“I hope people don’t point — play politics during this period.” That was President Bush’s response yesterday to criticism of the U.S. government’s inexplicably inadequate relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina.

Sorry, Mr. President, legitimate questions are being asked about the lack of rescue personnel, equipment, food, supplies, transportation, you name it, four days after the storm. It’s not “playing politics” to ask why.
It’s not “playing politics” to ask questions about what Americans watched in horror on TV yesterday: elderly people literally dying on the street outside the New Orleans convention center because they were sick and no one came to their aid.

The rest of America can’t fathom why a country with our resources can’t be at least as effective in this emergency as it was when past disasters struck Third World nations. Someone needs to explain why well-known emergency aid lessons aren’t being applied here.

This hurricane is no one’s fault; the devastation would be hard to handle no matter who was in charge. But human deeds can mitigate a disaster, or make it worse.

For example: Did federal priorities in an era of huge tax cuts shortchange New Orleans’ storm protection and leave it more vulnerable? This flooding is no surprise to experts. They’ve been warning for more than 20 years that the levees keeping Lake Pontchartrain from emptying into the under-sea-level city would likely break under the strain of a Category 3 hurricane. Katrina was a Category 4.

So the Crescent City sits under water, much of its population in a state of desperate, dangerous transience, not knowing when they will return home. They’re the lucky ones, though. Worse off are those left among the dying in a dying town.

The questions aren’t about politics. They are about justice.

***

Minneapolis Star Tribune

But whatever the final toll, the wrenching misery and trauma confronting the people of New Orleans is much greater than it should be — as it is, in fact, for tens of thousands of people along the strip of Mississippi that was most brutally assaulted by the storm. The immediate goal must be to ease that suffering. The second goal must be to understand how we came to this sorry situation.

How do you justify cutting $250 million in scheduled spending for crucial pump and levee work in the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), authorized by Congress in 1995?

How do you explain the almost total lack of coordination among federal, state and local officials both in Louisiana and Mississippi? No one appeared in charge.

***

Des Moines Register

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was the first practical test of the new homeland-security arrangements and the second test of President Bush in the face of a national crisis.

The performance of both has been less than stellar so far.

Katrina was a disaster that came with at least two days of warning, and it has been more than four days since the storm struck. Yet on Thursday, refugees still huddled unrescued in the unspeakable misery of the New Orleans Superdome. Patients in hospitals without power and water clung to life in third-world conditions. Untold tragedies lie yet to be discovered in the rural lowlands of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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