Tuesday, September 06, 2005


I'm not sure what Bob Somerby thinks he's discovered here. It's well known that Bush I's response to Andrew was only slightly less awful than his son's response to Katrina, that in both cases they tried to push the blame on to state/local officials. I think it's a straw man to raise the question of whether FEMA's response was bad by historical standards, as I'm not sure who has been making that claim. FEMA's, and the administration's response, has just been terrible by any standards. Any comparisons to the past aren't really that interesting, unless they involve actual unsurmountable issues of logistics rather than presidential dithering. A reminder from 2004, when Bush II actually did do his job:

n 1992, the anger in Miami could be seen in a spray-painted sign that greeted the president: "Help us President Bush. Want reelection? Send more help+
materials. We need them. Thank you!"

The president was not solely at fault for the post-Andrew difficulties. Then-Gov. Lawton Chiles shared some of the blame. The Democratic governor did not formally request federal assistance until three days after Andrew hit. He later said he incorrectly assumed that FEMA's response would be sufficient to trigger help from all federal agencies.

The federal response to Andrew was poorly planned and chaotic. FEMA had spent years preparing for a Cold War nuclear apocalypse, but it seemed unprepared for Mother Nature.

"WE NEED HELP," a front-page Miami Herald headline screamed four days after Andrew hit.

The effort was tangled up in red tape. Some FEMA officials wanted to move truckloads of supplies to Florida ahead of time so it would be closer to victims. But FEMA's lawyers said the agency could not move supplies until after an official disaster declaration. Similar problems hobbled the federal removal of storm debris and delayed federal troops from being deployed to Dade County, snarling the ability of states to help each other.

Of course, the important difference this time is that whatever fault Chiles had due to his failure to declare an emergency doesn't apply here - the emergency was declared both by Blanco and Bush before the damn thing even hit.