Posted by R. Neal

Right-wing conservatives set them up, Think Progress knocks them down. Some examples:

CLAIM: STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS WERE MOSTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR FAILURES: "White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials" [Washington Post, 9/4/05]

FACT: BUSH PUT FEMA IN CHARGE OF EFFORT BEFORE KATRINA STRUCK: "Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency." [White House, 8/27/05]

FACT: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ABLE TO ACT WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM STATES: The Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Chertoff activated the National Response Plan last Tuesday by declaring the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina an 'Incident of National Significance.' The plan, which was rolled out to much fanfare in January, essentially enables Washington to move federal assets to the disaster without waiting for requests from state officials." [Wall Street Journal, 9/13/05]

CLAIM: LOCAL OFFICIALS DESERVE BLAME FOR LACK OF EVACUATION BUSES : Rick Santorum claimed, "Many didn't have cars ... And that really was a failure on the part of local officials in not making transportation available to get people out." [Times Leader, 9/6/05]

FACT: LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD REQUESTED 700 BUSES FROM FEMA FOR EVACUATIONS, FEMA ONLY SENT 100: The Boston Globe reported, "On Sunday, the day before the storm, the Louisiana National Guard asked FEMA for 700 buses to evacuate people. It received only 100." [Boston Globe, 9/11/05]

There's more at Think Progress...

Speaking of local officials and the blame game, I think the right-wing pundits should keep piling on Mayor Ray Nagin. As more facts emerge, they might end up looking pretty stupid, not to mention petty and vindictive.

I, too, wondered about Nagin's leadership in the early days of the disaster. But he turned in a pretty good performance on Meet the Press this week and again last night in a live interview with Larry King on CNN. (Yeah, I know, but it's either Larry King or Rita Cosby. And speaking of Rita, why is she even still on the air? Does MSNBC not realize she's become a national joke? But I digress...)

I don't know much about Nagin's background or the politics down there in New Orleans, but he was passionate yet composed, he had a command of the facts, and he is far more articulate than our Commander in Chief. He handled some pretty tough questions (even from Larry King) and seems to actually care about the people of New Orleans (unlike some detached Federal bureaucrats).

He made the point that his job was to get as many people out of the city as possible. He says 80% of the people evacuated on their own or with help from local and state government as compared to only 60% in previous evacuations. He said that his responsibility was then to get the people who couldn't or wouldn't leave to high ground into shelters of last resort with enough provisions to last three days until the cavalry arrived. He got them to high ground. The cavalry did not arrive. He said he would never make the mistake of depending on them again.

He also talked about the current situation, the ongoing recovery efforts, and the rebuilding of New Orleans. The Meet the Press transcript is here. The Larry King transcript is here. Whatever else there is to know about Ray Nagin or how events will unfold, I think he deserves credit for his handling of an impossible situation, and probably for helping save tens of thousands of lives.