America has finally had a chance to step back and take a breath following the catastrophe that was hurricane Katrina. Government officials up until now have avoided publicly placing direct blame for the failed responses of their agencies. Now it is time to get real and figure out who failed to do their jobs and why.
Michael Brown, the former Bush-appointed head of FEMA, recently took a stab at seemingly everyone but himself who was involved with the Katrina evacuation and rescue operations. Said Brown: "My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional."
While Brown is obviously trying to deflect blame away from himself there is some relevance to his argument. The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, often appeared overwhelmed with emotion and unable to lead his city in a time of crisis. Much of the underlying reasons for this disaster lie with the dire state of poverty that New Orleans found itself in preceding the hurricane.
Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, often displayed the qualities of a deer in the headlights. At times Blanco appeared helpless. Unable to offer material help, she felt the appropriate actions were to declare a "day of prayer," to provoke divine intervention on the victims of the disaster.
And finally there is the federal government, headed by President Bush. Considering the hurricane affected multiple states, it is logical to assume that the Fed's assistance would be necessary to coordinate such a massive relief effort. After the infamous "seven minutes of inaction," following the 9-11 attacks, it is inexcusable for the president to have continued his vacation for three days following Katrina's devastation.
There is plenty of blame to be handed out for the failed responses. If President Bush, Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin are interested in learning from this experience, they will accept their shortcomings and learn from their mistakes.