Now let’s get it right

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 9, 2005

Before we rush to judge the president and the administration we should carefully read and consider the following. Our Constitution provides autonomy for the state governors. They are the only ones now that can mobilize their National Guards within their states to assist in their states, except in the extreme situation where they themselves are defying a Supreme Court order (like 1954 in Little Rock, Arkansas)

President Bush urged Gov. Blanco on Friday last to order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. She called for a &uot;voluntary&uot; evacuation on Saturday afternoon, saying that President Bush had urged her to evacuate (I assume that was so she could blame him if the storm passed them by). Bush declared Louisiana and Mississippi disaster areas of national emergencies two days before the hurricane hit. That is unprecedented as far as I know, but by doing that a lot of FEMA supplies and personnel could be propositioned in those states to assist. (But he first had to get the governors to request that he make these declarations.)

On Saturday night the mayor of New Orleans was still dithering with lawyers about their liability if he should order the evacuation of New Orleans be mandatory. He and the lawyers decided to have people sign forms refusing mandatory evacuation, and then Sunday morning he finally ordered mandatory evacuation. However, the mayor of New Orleans didn’t commandeer school buses and start hauling people out. He pretty much left everybody to fend for themselves, as far as I know.

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The country knows that New Orleans is one of our most corrupt cities, and Louisiana one of our most corrupt states. New Orleans has a Democrat mayor, a democrat City Council, a Democrat chief of police – Louisiana a Democrat Attorney General, a Democrat governor, a Democrat Lt. governor, 24 of 39 Louisiana state senators are Democrat, 67 of 105 Louisiana State House Representatives are Democrat, there’s a Democrat representative in the house from New Orleans, and one of two senators in the Senate is a Democrat (The only Republican Senator was just elected last year).

Gov. Blanco did not ask for National Guard troops from outside Louisiana to be prepositioned before the hurricane, and then was out of communication with her own troops after the hurricane because of the disaster taking down all the communication systems.

She did not request assistance from the federal government for additional troops from outside Louisiana until Wednesday. (Democrats are always reluctant to use military, especially in situations that involve African-Americans which comprised 68 percent of the population of New Orleans, but part of that was due to her not being able to get reports of conditions in New Orleans due to communications being down.) Friday, the National Guard rolled into New Orleans.

Many people in New Orleans didn’t leave because they had property they wanted to protect from criminals, because they had elderly or sick relatives or pets that they stayed to care for, or because their welfare or Social Security checks were due to come on Sept 1. Taking all these and other things into consideration we need to make a new law allowing the federal government to assume the leadership role in natural or terrorist disasters. We can’t count on each state having a &uot;Giuliani&uot; around to take charge.

There were disaster plans on the boards. Those plans called for mandatory evacuation of New Orleans if threatened by a category 4 or 5 hurricane. The governor and mayor simply didn’t do what they were supposed to do in a timely manner, despite urging from the president. We need to recognize that New Orleans cannot continue to live below sea level. Talk in congress is to bulldoze much of New Orleans and fill in the hole to 10-12 feet above sea level before allowing rebuilding. But where can we find enough debris along the Gulf coast to fill that hole?

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at