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Katrina, Irene & the Expectations of Bush’s Failure

It is perhaps instructive that Hurricane Irene threatened to devastate the East Coast almost exactly six years after Katrina did indeed devastate the Gulf Coast in and around New Orleans.

Now, to be sure, then-President George W. Bush did make his share of blunders in responding to the storm, perhaps his greatest being that he respected our federal system and trusted local authorities, who traditionally direct the response to handle natural disasters.  The federal government merely plays a supporting role.

One hundred years ago,” John Hinderaker wrote yesterday about the incumbent’s pretense of taking charge of hurricane relief efforts

. . . people understood that the president had nothing to do with hurricanes. Now, the president is expected to pretend to have control over more or less everything. This has something to do with the inexorable expansion of federal power, and also something to do with the dumbing-down of the American people.

Six years ago, our friends in the mainstream media used this expectation of of presidential responsibility over disaster relief to prove that the then-incumbent was the incompetent they knew him to be.  His image never recovered from their assault (though it just might have had he then had a press secretary who was not in a perpetual “defensive crouch“).

As the facts trickled out, it became increasingly clear that local authorities botched relief efforts in Louisiana.  Recall, that the storm devastated coastal regions in Mississippi and Alabama, but the chaos centered around Louisiana.   The then-Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, dilly-dallied before declining the “dual-hat” command structure to accommodate her concerns about “federalizing the response“.   President Bush was concerned about overstepping his bounds and not interfering with state responsibilities.

And because of those concerns for our federal structure, he was blamed for the Democratic governor’s failures. This supposed incompetence fit the expectations of those in our media, even if the real incompetence was at the local level, even if the stories about the disaster exaggerated the suffering and downplayed the accomplishments.

As Glenn Reynolds put it eight months after the disaster, “what they learned was that if they all shouted lies in unison they could drive Bush down in the polls.”  And so they did.  They expected him to fail and shaped the facts about the Katrina disaster to fit their expectations.

SORT OF RELATED: Expect the ‘Unexpectedly’: In the Obama years, bad news has always surprised the media.

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38 Comments

  1. I was reading an article about Mayor Ray “Schoolbus” Nagin and how he, and assorted other leaders, made exaggerated claims about supposed violence and rapes in the Superdome and what not. I wondered if they thought repeating such nonsense would bring more help faster.

    What a lot of people outside of (and apparently inside) Emergency Management don’t understand is that the paramount responsibility of rescuers is to protect themselves and then the people to be rescued. False reports of rampant lawlessness, shootings and even people shooting at helicopters will slow down an emergency response as nobody in their right mind will go into an area they think is unsafe. This, sadly, is still a criticism of the Columbine response.

    Interestingly, when Police Commissioner Eddie Compass was asked about spreading rumors, he stated:

    “I didn’t want people to think we were trying to cover anything up,” he said. “So I repeated things without being substantiated, and it caused a lot of problems.”

    http://tinyurl.com/3fwokcp

    Now there’s a CYA for ya.

    Comment by TGC — August 28, 2011 @ 3:40 pm - August 28, 2011

  2. Did you see pics of the SCOAMF at the FEMA Hurricane Command Center? Good Lord, the smug bastard really thinks he’s in charge of everything?

    Comment by V the K — August 28, 2011 @ 4:17 pm - August 28, 2011

  3. Yup, all those pictures really make me feel like this was the moment the oceans began to recede.

    Meanwhile, 18 people are dead, about half of them from falling trees, but others died in high surf.

    Comment by Leah — August 28, 2011 @ 5:09 pm - August 28, 2011

  4. Obama thinks leading is public relations; it’s not. The pictures make him look foolish.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — August 28, 2011 @ 5:36 pm - August 28, 2011

  5. GW was a very slow learner.

    Carter created FEMA and it was a typical bureaucratic SNAFU center for years.

    In August of 1992, Bush the Elder asked Lawton Chiles, Governor of Florida if he wanted Federal help well before Category 5 hurricane Andrew hit. Chiles refused Federal help. So Fema supplies were stockpiled in South Carolina awaiting Chiles’ call. Andrew was the third most powerful hurricane in the records book and it devastated South Florida in the Homestead area.

    After it hit, Chiles again said that Federal help was not called for. He did finally call for it only after Bush and FEMA were blamed all over national TV as being the cavalry that didn’t arrive. Even then, FEMA was staged in South Carolina and not really organized like the Marines to take the beach running.

    It was election year and Bush the Elder took a drubbing.

    GW should have known what the Democrats will do in politicizing a natural disaster and he should have stood on Blanco and Nagin and made them give way. Furthermore, Andy Card was next to both Bush Presidents in each Hurricane SNAFU.

    Irene has caused plenty of trouble, but the poor girl was not category 5 and there is a world of difference between governors and mayor playing politics with a city built below sea level and Obama cutting his vacation short by a day.

    Be it known, from this day forward, that Democrats will never let even a mild natural disaster go to waste. I expect to see Obama out in his Captain Stormcrusher cape waving a putter at the wind and ordering the seas to calm.

    At least Katrina produced the highly useful phrase: “Stuck on stupid.”

    Any Republican who hasn’t figured out the FEMA ploy in the Democrat playbook is stuck on stupid. You will recall that the lower Mississippi flooded and dikes were blown while Obama dawdled in Europe. It is not even a pretend level playing field when the Democrats do it.

    (Obama orders the invasion and assassination of Kadaffyduck and not a peep about preemptory strikes or violating Executive Order 12333: On December 4, 1981, President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12333 on “United States Intelligence Activities.” Section 2.11 of the order provides: “Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Section 2.12 of the order prohibits
    indirect participation in activities prohibited by the order, stating: “Indirect participation. No agency of the Intelligence Community shall participate in or request any person to undertake activities forbidden by this Order.”
    E.O. 12333 is still in force.)

    The MSM is not interested in the misdeeds or malfeasance of Democrats until they are overwhelmed by a backlash they can not control. (See: Weiner, Anthony.)

    Comment by Heliotrope — August 28, 2011 @ 5:46 pm - August 28, 2011

  6. Yesterday, I posted this on my Facebook:

    Prediction made on 8/27/11 during the Hurricane Irene weekend.

    1. The current government and other man-made global warming alarmists will use Hurricane Irene in their propaganda shortly.

    ‎2. The current administration’s propaganda machine will laud the President for her stellar leadership during the hurricane and compare it to Hurricane Katrina – despite the fact that Irene was much less intense (while still serious) and despite the fact that local governments had their collective….stuff together and did what needed to be done despite the federal governement unlike the local government particularly in Louisiana.

    ‎3. The President’s approval rating will have a slight gain after this is all over, but he will continue to do nothing for jobs and the economy so it will tank again in the not-so-distant future.

    Today, Ulster Man posted something very interesting from the supposed White House Insider: “http://socyberty.com/history/white-house-insider-obama-rushed-to-hurricane-irene-photo-op/”

    Interesting, eh?

    Comment by allyHM — August 28, 2011 @ 6:46 pm - August 28, 2011

  7. Obama and Irene have a lot in common; they were both huge bags of wind that the media overhyped.

    Comment by V the K — August 28, 2011 @ 7:48 pm - August 28, 2011

  8. I’m sorry, but didn’t GWB appoint his friend “Brownie” as the head of FEMA? As I recall, this guy had no experience in emergency management. Further to that, email revealed later showed he had no idea what he was doing during Katrina, as his staff were literally begging for help.

    Is Brown one of those parts of the federal system he “respected”? Pretty astounding the lengths you’ll go to defend that dolt.

    So far, the only website I’ve found that compares Irene to Katrina has been this site.

    Comment by Kevin — August 28, 2011 @ 10:05 pm - August 28, 2011

  9. I’m sorry, but didn’t GWB appoint his friend “Brownie” as the head of FEMA? As I recall, this guy had no experience in emergency management.

    Ah, yes…the textbook, liberal, “any pooch a Democrat screws is irrelevant, because a Republican did it, too” argument.

    Air-tight, as long as you’re talking to an idiot.

    Comment by Eric Olsen — August 28, 2011 @ 10:20 pm - August 28, 2011

  10. 9: I’m stating Democrat or Republican: I’m referring to a guy put in charge of a job for which he had no experience and further to that he was completely and utterly incompetent in carrying out his duties.

    The original poster here wants to get GWB off the hook, but since he put the incompetent guy in charge, then he can’t be off the hook for it.

    No, Kevin, I don’t write this to get W off the hook, but to make a point about how the media expected W to fail. If “Brownie” was so incompetent, how come then the relief problems were primarily in Louisiana? Why didn’t Alabama and MIssissippi have the same problems? Yeah, FEMA made mistakes. No, Brown wasn’t the best guy for the job, but the real incompetence was at the local level. And the then-administration’s failures weren’t as bad as the media reported. -Dan

    Comment by Kevin — August 29, 2011 @ 12:42 am - August 29, 2011

  11. Didn’t Clinton appoint a county judge as head of Emergency Operations in AR just a few years before making him the director of FEMA? How much experience did he have in Emergency Management on a local or federal level? Didn’t he wait three weeks to respond to hurricane Floyd in 1999, which caused massive flooding right on the heel of hurricane Dennis? And didn’t he only do so after being shamed by Jesse Jackson on TV?

    Heckuva job, asshole.

    Where was Obama when Tennessee and Kentucky were freezing to death in 2009? Where was he when Nashville flooded? Where is he on the drought in Oklahoma? Where was he when Texas was on fire? Wasn’t there a flood in CT, a year or so ago, and he flew over on his way to fundraisers in Maine? How many times has he turned down requests for federal disaster aid?

    Comment by TGC — August 29, 2011 @ 5:57 am - August 29, 2011

  12. Kevin is a very slow learner.

    I pointed out that the Democrats trashed Bush the Elder and Andy Card over Andrew and they did the exact same thing to GW and Andy Card with Katrina and Kevin wants to talk about “Brownie.” All this after I pointed out that GW was a slow learner for not seeing it coming.

    Kevin is a typical Progressive. He can not see beyond taking any defensive position available in a storm.

    As Dan pointed out, Mississippi and Alabama were smashed as well and they took the bull by the horns and managed to get the job done, in spite of “Brownie” and whatever indecision he might have brought to the table.

    This expectation that FEMA will come out of the ground like ants at a picnic and get things rolling the minute after the storm has passed is pure utopian myopia.

    OK, Kevin, now it Obambi’s turn. Strong governors and mayors who are mostly Republican got the people in the storm’s path evacuated and laid plans for the National Guard and federal help to come in afterward. Obambi took a day off his vacation and sat around the weather command center and blathered bromides to reenforce what the actual leaders were doing. Will the MSM praise his oratory and presence on the job or will they give credit to Bloomberg, Cuomo, Christie, McDonnell, O’Malley, Perdue and Markell?

    And why did O’Malley go out of his way to compare the FEMA response for Irene to the response to Katrina even before the storm had cleared the state? You would think a governor still in the assessment stage would have more important thoughts to think than political boilerplate.

    Comment by Heliotrope — August 29, 2011 @ 9:04 am - August 29, 2011

  13. I live in Baton Rouge and remember Katrina and the awful weeks that followed. Did almost nothing but hurricane relief – mainly collecting, sorting, and delivering items to shelters – for about a month. And I basically agree. As a native New Englander I have learned to appreciate this state, its people, and its culture. But Louisiana can be amazingly dysfunctional at times. Especially when relatives are involved.

    Only one small point. FEMA is still a disaster. After Gustav pounded us I found out first hand how impossible it is to get any sort of relief or assistance. It’s like visiting an IKEA store.

    Comment by Rick67 — August 29, 2011 @ 9:16 am - August 29, 2011

  14. [...] [...]

    Pingback by Category 1 Hurricane, But Category 5 Media Coverage - Christian Forums — August 29, 2011 @ 9:28 am - August 29, 2011

  15. Now, to be sure, then-President George W. Bush did make his share of blunders in responding to the storm, perhaps his greatest being that he respected our federal system and trusted local authorities, who traditionally direct the response to handle natural disasters. The federal government merely plays a supporting role.

    Oh wow, is that ever some harsh criticism! The problem was that George Bush respected the federal system too much! It’s like, he’s this great small government conservative, and the rest of the country just can’t keep up with him. You might as well go into a job interview and say “My greatest weakness is that I have no weaknesses!”

    Of course, if Bush did ‘respect the federal system’ too much, maybe there should be evidence of that elsewhere in his presidency? But look, we have No Child Left Beyond, we have Medicare Part D, we have an overhaul of defense and energy departments with Homeland Security, we have millions of new government employees, we have a widespread eavesdropping program…. is that a pattern of behavior you would expect from someone who respected the federal system too much and held to small government, conservative principles? Or are you just making excuses?

    Comment by Levi — August 29, 2011 @ 10:02 am - August 29, 2011

  16. FEMA is still a disaster.

    The Red Cross, local churches, Parrish level government and volunteers will always be better than a federal bureaucracy that is trying to make all the right political decisions as well as having to shove a chain at a problem.

    When the local power company is confronted with enormous outages, they work toward getting the most customers back on line first. That means some folks in the boonies are always going to be last. This should be instructive to how disaster aid works. You set up the shelters where the masses are and then you branch out to find the isolated people.

    The expectation of FEMA is that they transform the entire area immediately and reach everyone simultaneously. That is utopian balderdash and the common man should have much more common sense than that.

    FEMA is always going to be “a disaster” if we are so foolish as to depend on a distant government who doesn’t know the local territory.

    Comment by Heliotrope — August 29, 2011 @ 10:09 am - August 29, 2011

  17. is that a pattern of behavior you would expect from someone who respected the federal system too much and held to small government, conservative principles? Or are you just making excuses?

    Three years gone, and still all the left has is “but, but, but…BOOOOOOSH!!!!!”

    Of course, if all you have to work with is the SCOAMF, I suppose its to be expected.

    Comment by Eric Olsen — August 29, 2011 @ 10:27 am - August 29, 2011

  18. Three years gone, and still all the left has is “but, but, but…BOOOOOOSH!!!!!”

    Of course, if all you have to work with is the SCOAMF, I suppose its to be expected.

    You’re a living cliche. I get it – you hate Obama. Why bother with these kinds of posts?

    Comment by Levi — August 29, 2011 @ 11:58 am - August 29, 2011

  19. Why bother with these kinds of posts?

    Because it’s entertaining to watch Bammy’s idiot followers get all wee-wee’d up.

    Comment by V the K — August 29, 2011 @ 12:03 pm - August 29, 2011

  20. You’re a living cliche. I get it – you hate Obama. Why bother with these kinds of posts?

    I get it – you hate BOOOOSH!!!! Why the incessant need to divert attention away from the SCOAMFOTUS to a president who’s been out of office for three years?

    Comment by Eric Olsen — August 29, 2011 @ 12:03 pm - August 29, 2011

  21. I am pleased to have brought SCOAMF to GayPatriot. Moron Nation rules!

    There is also a SCOAMF Hitler video.

    Comment by V the K — August 29, 2011 @ 12:08 pm - August 29, 2011

  22. I am pleased to have brought SCOAMF to GayPatriot. Moron Nation rules!

    Oh, of course!!!! Thanks a bunch, V!

    If someone ever puts it on a t-shirt, I’m buying it. :-D

    Comment by Eric Olsen — August 29, 2011 @ 12:09 pm - August 29, 2011

  23. Oh wow, is that ever some harsh criticism! The problem was that George Bush respected the federal system too much! It’s like, he’s this great small government conservative, and the rest of the country just can’t keep up with him. You might as well go into a job interview and say “My greatest weakness is that I have no weaknesses!”

    Indeed. Bush made the mistake of believing that Obama Party local officials like Blanco and Nagin were actually competent, instead of typical Obama diversity-quota morons.

    Which is totally understandable. If you look elsewhere on the Gulf Coast, places like Mississippi and Alabama, who got hit even harder, were picking up and doing just fine. You didn’t hear reports of massive looting, rape, and people acting like animals like you did in Obama strongholds like New Orleans.

    Looks pretty straightforward — Obama Party = helpless miserable failures, Republican Party = pick yourself up and start fixing things.

    Typical, isn’t it, Levi? Any answer for why super-genius Obama voters like yourself weren’t smart enough to get out of New Orleans, weren’t smart enough to stockpile and make plans when you had nearly a week’s notice, and weren’t able to stop themselves from raping, looting, murdering, and smearing feces on walls when the hurricane hit?

    What happened in New Orleans shows the lack of intelligence and common sense that is typical of Obama base members like Levi. Without the welfare state, people like Levi are nothing more than animals, unable to control themselves, hell-bent on robbery, rape, looting, and mayhem.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — August 29, 2011 @ 12:34 pm - August 29, 2011

  24. people like Levi are nothing more than animals, unable to control themselves, hell-bent on robbery, rape, looting, and mayhem.

    Woman: “Help! Help! I’ve been raped by a liberal.”
    Cop: “How do you know he was a liberal?”
    Woman: “I had to help him.”

    Comment by V the K — August 29, 2011 @ 12:38 pm - August 29, 2011

  25. Hush, Levi. Adults are talking.

    Comment by The_Livewire — August 29, 2011 @ 12:42 pm - August 29, 2011

  26. I get it – you hate BOOOOSH!!!! Why the incessant need to divert attention away from the SCOAMFOTUS to a president who’s been out of office for three years?

    Is that a serious question? You realize that Dan’s original post is primarily about George Bush, don’t you?

    Comment by Levi — August 29, 2011 @ 4:27 pm - August 29, 2011

  27. Is that a serious question? You realize that Dan’s original post is primarily about George Bush, don’t you?

    Your reading comprehension skills need work, young padwan…

    The post is about the efforts to ignore the multitude of failures of the officials directly responsible for emergency response in favor of proving, as Kanye West so idiotically proclaimed, that “George Bush hates black people,” or something. Maybe there was something about the Darth Cheney/Halliburton Wind Machine…whatever.

    You and Brendan seriously need to consider Ritalin.

    Comment by Eric Olsen — August 29, 2011 @ 4:44 pm - August 29, 2011

  28. Never mind Ritalin. Abilify would do wonders. ObaMarx could whip out his script pad.

    The problem was that George Bush respected the federal system too much!

    I have memories of liberals demanding that the feds take over NO, don’t you? That was before asses like the ditch queen and Sean Penn were against it, of course.

    Comment by TGC — August 29, 2011 @ 7:32 pm - August 29, 2011

  29. Bloomberg was on TV, Cuomo, but I never saw or heard anything about or by Obambam on the local stations.

    Comment by Az Mo — August 29, 2011 @ 10:37 pm - August 29, 2011

  30. Oh wow, is that ever some harsh criticism!

    Dude, your party’s Ministry of Propaganda brought on Ray Nagin to discuss hurricane preparedness. Just shut your cake hole and walk away from this.

    Comment by TGC — August 30, 2011 @ 4:46 am - August 30, 2011

  31. Dude, your party’s Ministry of Propaganda brought on Ray Nagin to discuss hurricane preparedness.

    You mean the Communist party right?

    Comment by The_Livewire — August 30, 2011 @ 7:41 am - August 30, 2011

  32. I think the propaganda objective of the MFM was obvious, and MSDNC bringing on Schoolbus Nagin as an “expert” removes all doubt. They wanted to evoke Katrina to remind everyone of Bush’s worst hour, while hyping Irene so they could present their puppet Obama as the Hero of the Hour.

    Comment by V the K — August 30, 2011 @ 8:29 am - August 30, 2011

  33. Like a blind squirrel finding a nut, Levi the Stoopid has a point about George W. Bush’s utter lack of Federalist principles and enthusiasm for Big Government in most areas of American life. However, tomorrow or the next day, LtS will be back to claiming Bush’s madcap deregulation caused the economic crisis.

    Comment by V the K — August 30, 2011 @ 10:14 am - August 30, 2011

  34. I can tell you’re not even thinking about these posts – you see my name, you see that I was writing about Bush, and your instincts take over at that point.

    Wow! Someone is awfully full of himself lately. :-D

    Comment by Eric Olsen — August 30, 2011 @ 12:36 pm - August 30, 2011

  35. Oh, Come on, Levi’s no more obsessed over Bush than he is with Sarah Palin
    /snarcasm

    Comment by V the K — August 30, 2011 @ 12:44 pm - August 30, 2011

  36. Wow! Someone is awfully full of himself lately.

    lately? Levi’s a legend in his own racist, socialist mind.

    Comment by The_Livewire — August 30, 2011 @ 1:09 pm - August 30, 2011

  37. He seems more keen than usual to make shit up as he goes along.

    Comment by TGC — August 30, 2011 @ 3:08 pm - August 30, 2011

  38. Wow! Someone is awfully full of himself lately.

    That’s what I thought.

    Comment by Levi — August 31, 2011 @ 12:09 pm - August 31, 2011

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