New Orleans Paper Slams Federal Response on Saturday

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By: E&P Staff

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, in publishing its second print edition of the week on Saturday from its new base in Houma, lashed out in an editorial at federal relief efforts so far, even as help and supplies finally started to arrive.

“It’s good to hear the president admit his administration’s shortcomings, and it’s even better to hear his promise to help all of us who are in need,” the editorial declared. “But the sad truth remains that the federal government’s slow start has already proved fatal to some of the most vulnerable people in the New Orleans area. Water has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. A lack of water to drink is exacting its toll on others.

“We applaud the mayor for giving voice to an entire city’s frustration. How could the most powerful and technologically advanced nation in the history of the world have responded so feebly to this crisis?

“The president’s admission of his administration’s mistakes will mean nothing unless the promised help is deployed immediately. Each life is precious, and there isn’t a second chance to save a single one of them. No more talk of what’s going to happen. We only want to hear what is being done. The lives of our people depend on it.”

Other editorials around the nation struck similar themes. A sampling (to be updated):

–San Antonio (Texas) Express News

“On Tuesday, one day after the hurricane struck, Bush delivered a speech on the 60th anniversary of V-J Day, determined to stick to his agenda. Nothing would interrupt his schedule. Not even a catastrophe.

“It was a telling moment. When the country needed a president, it got a politician. There is a big difference. A politician provides rhetoric; a president provides comfort and reassurance.

“Where was the man who performed so ably in the days following 9-11? He was a president then, a leader who expressed both compassion and fortitude. This time around, his response was frustratingly slow.”

–The New York Times

“There are dozens of questions Americans will demand to have answered once this emergency has passed. If the Homeland Security Department was so ill prepared for a natural disaster that everyone knew was coming, how is it equipped to handle other kinds of crises? Has the war in Iraq drained the nation of resources that it needs for things like flood prevention? Is the National Guard ready to handle a disaster that might be even worse, like a biological or nuclear attack?

“One thing is certain: if President Bush and his Republican Congressional leaders want to deal responsibly with a historic disaster of this scale, they must finally try the path of honestly shared national sacrifice. If they respond by passing a few emergency measures and then falling back on their plans to enact more tax cuts, America will have to confront the fact that it is stuck with leaders who neither know, nor care, how to lead.”

–Los Angeles Times

“In New Orleans, thousands of residents unable to evacuate ?most of them poor, trapped in more ways than one ? wandered the streets with nothing more than the clothes they wore. Such scenes demonstrate the need to improve evacuation plans for people who lack their own means of escape, and also the need for families to prepare to survive on their own, if necessary, for days following a disaster.

“As often as this has been emphasized in California, the Office of Emergency Services estimates that only 25% to 30% of Californians have a plan of what to do in a disaster. Development of such a plan is not difficult.

“Katrina should serve as a reminder to all Californians that there is no excuse for being ill-prepared.”

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