Dr. Carl F. Horowitz wrote in Townhall The primary villain in the Hurricane Katrina saga, of course, was Katrina herself. Yet the aftermath of the storm seems to have unleashed a pent-up fury among paint-by-numbers Bush-haters. The entire Democratic Party and its unofficial brain trust, it seems, have gotten in on the action.... Let's be straight about this. Nobody is suggesting leadership in Washington ought to be immune from public scrutiny. President Bush has said as much from the outset. Already, the political fallout has cost Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown his job. But the best place to start a search for an accountability breakdown should be at the local level, preferably among criminals and cops - in that order.
I would not excuse the Mayor and the Governor, either. Both had very good disaster plans, and neither followed their own plans, but just looked to the Feds to rescure them from their own incompetence.It is little secret that New Orleans has a large and nasty criminal class. The city's murder rate is about ten times the U.S. average. Only one in four murders results in a conviction, in large measure because witnesses fear retaliation or don't think their testimony is worth the effort.... The criminal element acted up with a vengeance after the flooding forced tens of thousands of people into the city's downtown area. Hoodlums went on an orgy of robbery, burglary, assault, rape, arson, and yes, murder. Perhaps most egregiously, a number of them shot at police, firefighters and rescue helicopters.... The city does have its share of honest, dedicated cops, by now thoroughly exhausted. But it also has a higher portion of bad apples than most cities. Just how much higher was suggested by a segment of CBS's "60 Minutes," aired Sunday, September 11. During the course of the flood, New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass admitted that roughly a third of city's police force simply had walked off the job. And some of those who stayed joined the looters. In a program aired over a week earlier on MSNBC, Martin Savidge, reporting from a Wal-Mart in the process of being looted, interviewed police officers claiming to be arresting suspects, even as they were loading their own shopping carts with dry goods. How's that for abdication - and chutzpah?.... Meanwhile, let's put away the FEMA jokes for just a minute, and give a modest round of applause for the feds. In the week following the main levee's breach, the military and the Coast Guard managed to rescue more than 32,000 stranded civilians, many from rooftops by helicopter. The Army Corps of Engineers all but completely repaired levee breaches, and began pumping large quantities of water. Fact: Federal response time for Hurricane Katrina was faster, not slower, than for hurricanes Hugo (1989) or Andrew (1992), each a brutally destructive Category 5 storm in its own right.
It would be easy for President Bush to excoriate local failures. But wherever possible, he should stand tall with the rescuers. Let his enemies appear as inveterate complainers exploiting tragedy for political gain.