Governor Blanco asked for help; no one gave it

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On Sunday, August 28, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco surveyed the lay of the land and shot off a letter to the regional director of FEMA, detailing her assessment of the severity of the upcoming hurricane, and asking for help. Apparently, FEMA’s interpretation of the term “major disaster” is somewhat different than the interpretation with which most of us are familiar.

Today, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut announced that they will open a bipartisan investigation of the “immense failure” of the government to respond to the consequences of Hurricane Katrina. Many of us would feel better if someone other than Collins and Lieberman were involved in an enterprise that will undoubtedly call for getting tough, but it seems we are stuck with them.

We have only to look at the report of the September 11 Commission to know what happens when the government “investigates” itself. Who at FEMA failed to do what and why will most likely never be known, though we may see one or two scapegoats trotted out to be shamed, while the perpetrators of incompetence are awarded medals. We have been here before.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, in a piece of weary understatement, said: “There was a time when FEMA understood that the correct approach to a crisis was to deploy to the affected area as many resources as possible as fast as possible. Unfortunately that no longer seems to be their approach.”

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