Editorials Raise Questions About President’s Response to Katrina–and Lack of Preparations

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By: E&P Staff

As the truth sinks in–this is the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history–editorials in a wide range of newspapers have now raised critical issues about the lack of preparation, the effects of so many National Guard sent to Iraq, and the response of President Bush to the tragedy this week.

One of the most stalwart conservative newspapers in the nation, the Union Leader of New Hampshire, today blasted Bush’s response to the great Gulf Coast hurricane.

“A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource to rescue the stranded, find and bury the dead, and keep the survivors fed, clothed, sheltered and free of disease,” the editorial declared. “The cool, confident, intuitive leadership Bush exhibited in his first term, particularly in the months immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, has vanished. In its place is a diffident detachment unsuitable for the leader of a nation facing war, natural disaster and economic uncertainty.

“Wherever the old George W. Bush went, we sure wish we had him back.”

On Thursday, after the president returned to Washington, The New York Times mocked his speech: “George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.”

The Washington Post, meanwhile, called for a close look at what should have been done differently, saying “it will be extremely important to better understand the causes of this long-predicted disaster and to determine what, if anything, could have prevented it. This administration has consistently played down the possibility of environmental disaster, in Louisiana and everywhere else. The president’s most recent budgets have actually proposed reducing funding for flood prevention in the New Orleans area, and the administration has long ignored Louisiana politicians’ requests for more help in protecting their fragile coast, the destruction of which meant there was little to slow down the hurricane before it hit the city.

“It is inappropriate to ‘blame’ anyone for a natural disaster. But given how frequently the impact of this one was predicted, and given the scale of the economic and human catastrophe that has resulted, it is certainly fair to ask questions about disaster preparations. Congress, when it returns, should rise above the blame game and instead probe the state of the nation’s preparation for handling major natural catastrophes, particularly those that threaten crucial regions of the country.”

The Albuquerque (N.M.) Tribune asked: “Like the National Guard, is FEMA itself being stretched too thin by the number and increasing intensity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires? That’s not to mention the potential for earthquakes, including the so-called ‘Big One’ in California.”

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