The Locals Verses The Feds

While the relief effort continues in New Orleans, the local government is fighting a war of words against the federal government. It’s the age old game of blame, and nearly everyone in authority is running for cover. No one wants to own up to the bad decision, the bad call, the inaction, the ineffectiveness, or the absurdity that is New Orleans.

So for now, the media as messengers deliver one outrageous story after another into the public domain. 

Guardsmen ‘played cards’ amid New Orleans chaos: police official

A top New Orleans police officer said that National Guard troops sat around playing cards while people died in the stricken city after Hurricane Katrina. W.S. Riley said that for the first three days after Monday’s storm, which is believed to have killed several thousand people, the police and fire departments and some volunteers had been alone in trying to rescue people.

“We expected a lot more support from the federal government. We expected the government to respond within 24 hours. The first three days we had no assistance,” he told AFP in an interview.

Riley went on: “We have been fired on with automatic weapons. We still have some thugs around. My biggest disappointment is with the federal government and the National Guard. We have people who died while the National Guard sat and played cards. I understand why we are not winning the war in Iraq if this is what we have.”

But Commander Riley failed to mention the other reason why the local police department had so much difficulty in the early hours after Hurricane Katrina hit the Big Easy. The National Guard expected to provide a supporting role to a full order of police officers, fire fighters and emergency rescue officials. But that expectation was clearly wrong. Two thirds of the New Orleans police force either left New Orleans before the Hurricane hit or turned in their badges and quit within the first 48 hours of the disaster. 

“The real issue, particularly in New Orleans, is that no one anticipated the disintegration or the erosion of the civilian police force in New Orleans,” National Guard commander, Lieutenant General Steven Blum told reporters in Washington.

“Once that assessment was made … then the requirement became obvious,” he said. “And that’s when we started flowing military police into the theatre.”

Since Thursday some 7,000 National Guard and military police had moved into the city. President George W. Bush on Saturday ordered an additional 7,000 active duty and reserve ground troops. Blum said any suggestion that the National Guard had not performed well or was late was a “low blow”.

“The initial priority of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard forces was disaster relief, not law enforcement, because they expected the police to handle that,” he said.

The anger burning in New Orleans over the past few days is justifiable. Refugees deserve an explanation.

But, their anger should not be directed at George W. Bush. Their anger should be directed at the criminals in their city, the drug addicts who held up their neighbors at gunpoint, the looters who stole from their neighborhood businesses, and the bad decisions, the bad calls, the inaction, and the ineffectiveness of their disconnected and dysfunctional local government.

MORE: Blanco refused to act.

UPDATE: Blanco delayed the response offer made by Bush for additional 24 hours.

Related: Delusional, Dysfunctional, Divisive, and Defiant


  1. I watched, I believe, CNBC, dumbstruck as the reporter interviewed two police officers with New Orleans badges and uniforms on – who were looting a WalMart. One was pushing a shopping cart filled with shoes and other items. (As people died, apparently.)

    Also not getting much attention outside of Drudge is the fact that the Mayor of New Orleans failed to mobilize the school buses (as did the Mayor of Galveston, TX) – gassing them up and moving them to higher ground, so they wouldn’t be underwater and unavailable to the poor who didn’t have cars. This, to me, is a major contributing factor to all the suffering, and if fingers are to be pointed, lets start there. The mayor essentially stranded over 10 thousand of his people by failing to put in to place the city’s own rules for hurricane and flood procedures.

  2. All the news reports say that NO police are so disorganized they don’t even know how many officers are on duty, much less communicating regularly with them, and directing them.

    Says New Orleans deputy police commander W.S. Riley: “Some officers could not handle the pressure and left. I don’t know if we have 800 or thousands today.”

    (It’s unlikely that it’s thousands, as NO police apparently have only 1700 officers.)

  3. Hmm. “Blanco refused to act.”

    “Don’t blame Bush, blame the disorganization of New Orlean’s Police and fire departments.” [paraphrased]

    “The Louisiana and New Orleans governments shouldn’t blame the federal government, when they weren’t even prepared for this disaster.” [also paraphrased]

    I certainly don’t claim to know what’s going on in the political side of this situation, but let’s just examine some facts and apply some critical thought here.

    One fact in particular: Bush has been cutting funding for New Orleans’ levees for a year now.

    Another: Bush drastically cut FEMA back, and merged it with DHS.

    This is the same FEMA that has historically taken a leading role in disaster recovery situations, like 2004’s hurricane distruction in Florida.

    Now, given that Bush has already done so much for Louisianans, and Louisiana government officials had already been slamming the federal government for days for the sluggish response to this disaster, can anyone blame them for not wanting to hand over the reigns?

    Yes, this whole thing has been horribly disorganized. This is because the local governments expected FEMA to take a far more central role, and FEMA just wasn’t equipped to handle the situation.

    Yes, New Orleans wasn’t prepared for this disaster. New Orleanseans knew this, too — see the “Washing Away” series on They’ve been trying to scrape money together to prepare for such a disaster for years, while the federal government has only slashed existing budgets.

    Yes, the looters and hoodlums are despicable, and probably deserve to be left to their own devices. But what about the innocent people who were trapped in New Orleans by their poverty? Are you willing to condemn them too, on account of a select few? Their should have been TROOPS in that city from the beginning, to maintain order and help with repairs.

    New Orleans was a beautiful city, and its residents have endured a terrible tragedy. Please do not turn this disaster into a stage for a skewed political agenda.

  4. Lee, a few problems:
    1) FEMA is NOT in charge of dealing with anarchy. In a situation of anarchy — which, thanks to the inept leadership in New Orleans, was in effect — they can’t do a damned thing until order is restored.

    THAT responsibility is SUPPOSED to fall on New Orleans police. They failed, miserably, at it.

    The federal gov’t, for the sheer sake of federalism, is not permitted to simply send troops into a state whenever they want.

    If Florida had armed hoodlums and no police to help, FEMA wouldn’t have been able to do shit for them, either.

    And it’s astonishing to remember that it took about a week for FEMA to deliver aid to the victims of Hurricane Andrew — yet it worked like a charm back then, apparently.

    2) New Orleans levees were controlled by several different — and feuding — state agencies. They refused to even permit such things as redundancies in case of failure because, darn it, that might just weaken their little fiefdom a little more.

    3) As was pointed out in the original post, the poor who have been left behind were left BECAUSE THE MAYOR IGNORED THE EVACUATION PLAN. Rather than use the school buses or New Orleans Public Transport buses to evacuate people, they simply said “Well, get out of here. Don’t care how you do it”

    And if not Bush, they wouldn’t have even said “Get out of here”.

    4) The federal government’s job is not to have emergency plans for every damned city in the country. It’s a little difficult to have plans for every possible contingency for every city in this entire country.

    That is SUPPOSED to be the job of the CITY and STATE governments. Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular failed, magnificently, to do their jobs.

    Now, if Louisiana wishes to forfeit its sovreignty and allow the federal government to rule them, so be it.

    5) You really don’t want TROOPS to have to enforce law in an American city. That is a situation you REALLY don’t want to enter.

    The only skewed political agenda is the one where the federal gov’t is blamed for an inept local gov’t.

  5. the media hates bush so the facts will not get in their way. bush should have sent in the troops monday and violated the constitution. on meet the press today no mention was make of local or state resposibility. no it was only get bush. sad.

  6. Kerry Not The Hero Wannabe says:

    So let’s get this straight. According to leftists, it is George Bush’s fault. We have a representative talking physical violence against Bush if he correctly points to the ineptness and even malfeasance of the people that were responsible. We have the inept governor, mayor, and police official all pointing at Bush. It’s the Federal Government’s fault for not overstepping bounds and removing these corrupt or lazy officials and just moving the feds in. Got it.

    As I recall, the state government has to make the calls to initiate federal assistance and aid. But the leftists don’t want to find out just when those calls were made. They don’t want to find out because then they will be left without Bush to bash any more. They won’t have to deal with the fact that they would have to hold recall elections in the not so great state of Louisiana. I know that there is one democrat that needs to be treated like any other citizen that threatens the President. Leftists need to get responsibilities and timelines correct. Oh, by the way, wasn’t Clinton the one that didn’t feel the need to do what the left claims Bush should have done (unconstitutionally)? Any fair minded leftists out there? No, didn’t think so. Well, I think that the state of Luisiana has proved itself incapable of protecting it’s citizens from rapists and looters and even from lazy, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. The left has proved once again that it can’t protect itself from lazy and corrupt thinking. Once again now class, when can a President override the lazy state governor and just send in the troops? Never.

    I find it interesting that Hillary Clinton is tired of being told that they can’t debate and criticize the government. Wonder how she feels about the state and city governments being criticized. Wonder if she will hit Bush too, if the proper blame is placed on the lazy and corrupt state and city officials.

  7. In the Bullpen says:

    Enough is Enough

  8. I’m not trying to start any arguments, or act as an apologist for the Louisiana and New Orleans governments. Indeed, if I were, I’d have a hard time arguing with MikeSC, who makes some good points.

    I’m sure that, in truth, there’s plenty of blame to go around. I don’t think a witch-hunt will do anybody any good, though.

    It saddens me to see this turning into a situation where each side of our polarized political structure looks for ways to use this event to discredit their opponents. I just wish people would devote more energy to relief, and *constructive* criticism, and less to finger-pointing and mud-slinging.

    [I would like to clarify my comment about “troops,” though: I was referring to National Guard. It’s my understanding that Louisiana doesn’t recognize federal martial law.]

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