Bush Plays Into Hands of Katrina Critics

For a long time now we’ve been listening to the Democrats and their toadies in the media complaining about the Bush administration’s handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and its aftermath.

They charge it up to what they call the administration’s incompetence, implying that had the Democrats been running the show, things would have been handled much better.

It takes a lot of gall to make that charge because as one Town Hall blogger, Cato’s Corner, recently pointed out, the Democrats were in charge before, during and ever since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

In the United States, the authorities at the state and local levels are responsible for what happens in their areas. In Louisiana the governor is a Democrat, and the mayor of New Orleans is a Democrat. They were the so-called first responders, and their response was pitiful. They can blame President Bush all they want, but it was their job to handle the disaster and their handling of it was a disaster in itself.

That incompetence continues, especially in New Orleans where the cleanup and rebuilding efforts are lagging far behind where they would have been had they done their jobs competently. And they can’t blame that on the president or the federal government.

The fact is that $11.8 billion has been allocated. That’s everything that New Orleans asked for. They got $6 billion in December, another $4 billion in May, another $1.8 billion recently, and yet they haven’t spent the money.

One big problem: New Orleans has yet to come up with a master plan that will allow people to know what they can do and how to do it.

"The citizens of New Orleans need to know what the plans are, so the citizens can make their plans on whether they should rebuild, repair or sell their homes," Norman Francis, chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversees federal aid given to Louisiana told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"A lot of people are holding their money back pending an affirmation that the city really has a broader idea of where it’s going in the future. What kind of a city is it going to be?" added Ken Topping, a California planning consultant hired to help.

Moreover, the city refuses to relax the red-tape provisions to allow the people to get the money to be able to rebuild, which is exactly the opposite of what Mississippi’s Republican Governor Haley Barbour has done in his state. He cut through the red tape to allow the people to get the funds necessary to go ahead and rebuild.

Another reason is that the folks in Mississippi are working together, not standing around waiting for the federal government to rebuild. Officials in Louisiana are still whining, waiting for somebody to do everything for them.

The federal government has supplied the funds. It is the local government that refuses to distribute the money. I was talking to a member of Congress from Louisiana who recalled that the Congress had authorized $6 billion last December but New Orleans made the determination that they were not going to spend any of it until they got the whole $10 billion they were then demanding.

In Mississippi, on the other hand, as they were getting the money they were finding ways to spend it to help the people rebuild.

Tragically, the President is playing into the hands of his critics by implying that he is somehow to blame for the situation. He’s allowing the Democrats to use him as fodder in their attacks on him. He needs to stand up and shout, “We’re not to blame. We gave you the money. If the people in New Orleans don’t have the money it’s not because the federal government hasn’t done its job; it’s because your local government officials refuse to do theirs.”