"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
These tactics are beyond outrageous. No state, no locality can take the lead in dealing with an emergency like Katrina. That's why FEMA was created. That is why Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency on Friday, Aug. 26, when Katrina was a Category 2 hurricane. It is why the Gulf Coast states requested help from the Pentagon that same day.
It is why the next day, as Katrina was upgraded to Category 3, Blanco asked President Bush to declare a federal state of emergency in Louisiana. It was declared. Thus FEMA had full authority and responsibility from the White House "to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."
Over the following week the world watched as an even more powerful Katrina hit on Monday and victims pitifully waited for help without adequate (or often any) food, health care or water. Meager boats rescued a few as doctors pleaded for aid, as newscasters struggled to share the story -- and as ships, trucks and outside aid waited, and waited, for approval to help, frequently thwarted, incredibly, by FEMA.
Exactly what went wrong, in both the planning and the response, must be assessed in short order. The ability of the United States to prepare for and respond to disaster -- whatever the origin -- is vital to its security. No less, it is critical to America's ability to honor its shared values, which include attending to the poor, the sick, the vulnerable -- the very people who suffered most from the government's incompetence last week. Yet the White House delays the reckoning while pointing fingers at others.
Incompetence is bad enough; not taking responsibility for it is shameful. Blaming it on others is a national disgrace.