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September 9, 2005, 3:30 P.M.

Last week, I wrote about what is meant by the phrase, “Support Our Troops” and how I was bothered by the implication that if you don't support the actions of our government, you can't possibly “support our troops.” I am happy to say that I got a very positive response to the article from people who are, or were, in the military. Apparently, many of our troops don’t see criticism of this war, or this administration, as a lack of support for them. At the same time, I heard from several folks who felt strongly that if you support he President, you don’t support the troops. They were very clear about it, and they could not see any difference. I expect that before long support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina will also mean support of the President. “If you criticize the federal response, you don’t support the victims” makes about the same amount of sense.

September 9, 2005, 3:00 P.M.

My daughters, Rosalie (13) and Madeline (11), and their friends Faith (9) and Rachel (12), operated a lemonade stand last weekend for the benefit of the American Red Cross/Hurricane Katrina victims. They raised over $100.00 for the Red Cross. We have seen other children around town doing the same thing. What a great effort. Thanks and congratulations to all the kids everywhere who stepped up and helped out.

September 5, 2005, 8:45 P.M.

Same tune, different song: On August 28, 2005 Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco sent a letter to President Bush. August 28th was last Sunday, just on the eve of the hurricane's landfall. The letter consists of the required list of requests for aid and assistance from the federal government and cites the various laws which must be complied with when a State asks for federal intervention in an emergency. You can find this letter, and the actual state declaration of emergency, which was apparently made on August 26th, the Friday before Katrina made landfall at http://gov.louisiana.gov/Disaster%20Relief%20Request.pdf. [link]

In the letter, Governor Blanco specifically requests that the President declare a state of emergency in Louisiana, due to the imminent landfall of hurricane Katrina. She further states that “…In response to the situation I have taken appropriate action under State law and directed the execution of the State Emergency Plan on August 26, 2005 in accordance with Section 501 (a) of the Stafford Act. A State of Emergency has been issued for the State in order to support the evacuations of the coastal areas in accordance with our State Evacuation Plan.” She also states that “… I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster ...” That sounds like a pretty specific declaration of a state of emergency to me.

Despite this request, the federal government has been so slow in responding to this natural disaster that people have died and are continuing to die waiting for rescue. President Bush was on vacation, again, when the hurricane made landfall and he did not alter his political or vacation schedule until Wednesday, when the crisis was in full stride and all over the national news. On Tuesday, the President was photographed strumming a guitar with a country music star in California, half a continent and a world away from food ravaged Louisiana and storm torn Mississippi.

As soon as the President started to look bad, and the lethargic response of the Feds came to center stage, the White House began to mobilize, but not to provide assistance. The lack of a timely and adequate response by FEMA to this natural disaster was and is unconscionable and unforgivable, yet White House strategy is to spin the slow and ineffective Federal response to the devastation in Louisiana and Mississippi into a failure of local government and specifically, of Governor Blanco. In short, facts be damned, it’s politics as usual with Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett calling the tune. Josh Marshall summed it up like this in a recent post; “The Bush administration wants everyone to believe that it wasn't caught sleeping on the job while New Orleans went under with a gutted FEMA run by a guy who got fired from his last job policing horse shows. In fact, according to the new White House storyline, the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans didn't ask for help quickly enough. And the White House was powerless to act until they did. Apparently they couldn't even reschedule the president's vacation until the locals got the right forms signed.”

The problem of course is that, as with WMD and the connection between Saddam and 911, there is no substance to this political bunk. George Bush was at a photo op with a country singer in California on Tuesday. The photo session featured Bush strumming a guitar with the presidential seal on it. The White House was quick to point out that Bush was at the air base in Coronado giving a speech about the 60th anniversary of the surrender of Japan, and not just fooling around. He did not return to the White House until Wednesday, and he only did so because the politics of this disaster threatened to further undermine his political agenda and to further damage his already poor approval ratings. The official line is that local government failure resulted in a poor response and that is just more BS. I am certain that, under the circumstances, there were local failures, but the failure of our federal government to get water to New Orleans as fast as they got it to Sri Lanka is inexcusable.

Rome burned, Nero fiddled. Louisiana drowned, Bush strummed. FEMA was gutted in favor of Bush's Homeland Security Department and the effect was that no effective federal response could be mobilized to help thousands of people stranded in Louisiana. The war in Iraq has so drawn of the resources of the Army Corps of Engineers that the program for upgrading and maintaining the levee system has been all but abandoned. Just as Bush used 9/11 to his advantage, so must he accept responsibility for the failure of his administration to protect people in this country from a crisis everyone knew was coming sooner or later.

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