Saturday, December 03, 2005

Blanco Releases Katrina Documents

Governor Blanco of LA released 100,000 pages of Katrina related documents Friday. The documents which were requested by 2 Congressional committees included unedited "e-mail messages, hand-written notes, correspondence with the White House, thousands of offers of assistance, desperate pleas for help...... handwritten notes, audio recordings of conference calls and even a few doodles on legal pads. " As the documents were placed online for the press only, we must rely on their reading of them. Both the NYT and The Time- Picayune stressed the documents revealed the political rift that went on as the disaster unfolded.
From the NYT ....
The documents and correspondence put in full light the rivalry between the White House and the governor, a Democrat, along with the rising anger in Louisiana as requests for federal assistance went unanswered.
The NYT reported Blanco aides believed the Bush administration was attempting to place blame on Blanco which infuriated them. They in turn attempted to shift blame back to Bush and both papers reported on documents containing what they characterized as talking points for the defense of Blanco.

There are numerous examples of a breakdown between State and Federal. The Times-Picayune reported .......

Other documents show Blanco's growing frustration with federal response. Nothing was more of a flash point than the lack of buses to rescue people from New Orleans.

The day of the storm, Aug. 29, Blanco met for the first time with former FEMA chief Mike Brown, who promised the state ample supplies and said that his agency had "500 buses on standby, ready to be deployed," according to the Blanco timeline.

Two Days later when no buses had arrived Blanco re-iterated to the Feds the need for buses to evacuate "the thousands of people out of the Superdome, Convention Center and off the Interstate 10 overpass." She spoke with Andrew Card telling him 500 buses will not do, they need 5000. She also spoke that day with Bush about the frustration that no FEMA buses had arrived. With no help from the Feds on Aug. 31 Blanco "issued an executive order to commandeer private buses.... Ultimately 1,500 would be seized, and about 800 used, the document said."
Late on Aug 31, two days after Brown had told her the buses were on standyby, ready to deploy, she learned the first FEMA buses had just crossed Louisiana's northern state line and were still 7-8 hours from New Orleans.

Another example of the breakdown regarded the National Guard. On Sept. 2 Blanco requested in writting that the LA National Gurad be brought back from Iraq. The response...

But according to an e-mail from a White House staffer five days later, the letter never arrived. Margaret Grant sent an e-mail to Blanco's office Sept. 7 asking that the Sept. 2 letter be resent.
"We found it on the governor's Web site but we need 'an original,' for our staff secretary to formally process the requests she is making," Grant wrote.
Whether or not to nationalize the Guard also became a bone of contention. Blanco refused to nationalize the Guard. The NYT stated, "In the documents, Ms. Blanco and her advisers, as well as some outside allies, defended her decision to reject a request by the Bush administration to take control of the National Guard." One example of such a defense cited by the NYT was found in an email from John B. Breaux, a former Democratic senator from Louisiana to Blanco's communications director....
"If Bush and FEMA couldn't deliver meals after 5 days how could LA expect them to take over our Natl Guard and do better job????"

First I commend Gov. Blanco for releasing all the documents. We won't see the White House doing the same.
The documents appear to confirm what I have believed for some time in regard to Katrina. The venomous savaging that passes for governance in DC led us to Katrina. The vicious politics of division has so poisoned our government that it was impotent as tens of thousands of lives hung in the balance and the world watched on in horror. We really should not be shocked that partisan brinksmanship did indeed take us to the brink. And further it could not even be set aside for 5 days to pull us back from the brink and save lives. In fact the White House kicked it into higher gear by immediately moving blame to a Democrat governor. Game on. When unity, responsibility and leadership were so desperately needed we got spin, divisiveness and blame. Katrina laid bare how the bloodletting of the 1000 cuts form of politics has left us with a festering putrid wound of a government that I fear is a step away from life support.
It is no wonder that practically no one inside the Beltway wants to deal with Katrina anymore. To do so would require having to face the shame of THEMSELVES. It is the shame of having gone so far off track in the endless game of attack and defend that they neglected to do their jobs and for that people died. While it is a shared shame it is the Republicans who are not only driving this train, they laid that track. And if they couldn't jump the track in our greatest natural disaster they never will. This time 1086 people of Louisiana lost their lives.

How many next time?

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