In the days and weeks following 9/11, the mainstream media, Congresspeople and even average Americans were hesitant to ask the tough questions. Reflections on whether it could have been prevented were taboo. Rightly or wrongly, many people got behind the flag, our President and our government in the aftermath.
No so with Katrina. The analysis of what wasn't done before Katrina has begun and criticism of actions both before and after Katrina struck are prominent in the mainstream print and televised media. Already I've seen CNN's Miles O'Brien ask a question of Haley Barbour (Governor of Mississippi) as to whether or not he (Barbour) was angry at the lack of Federal response. Barbour, Republican to the end, was visibly outraged and peeved.
Volvo Liberal posted a diary featuring a New York Times editorial. I decided to check other major newpapers and see what their editorial columnists were saying today.
Just an editorial note - I have maintained a database since the election of major market newpapers across the country. I took a sampling of these today due to time constraints. Each editorial is referenced and only an excerpt is provided to ensure that copyrights aren't violated.
The Boston Globe - Catastrophe
But even before engineers repair the damaged levees and begin the long process of pumping New Orleans out, the city's residents deserve to know whether human actions or inactions bear a share of responsibility for this catastrophe. There is strong evidence that they do and that the entire Gulf area will be at risk of future Katrinas if policies and priorities are not changed.
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
The Washington Post - The Great Flood of '05
But over the longer term, it will be extremely important to better understand the causes of this long-predicted disaster and to determine what, if anything, could have prevented it. This administration has consistently played down the possibility of environmental disaster, in Louisiana and everywhere else. The president's most recent budgets have actually proposed reducing funding for flood prevention in the New Orleans area, and the administration has long ignored Louisiana politicians' requests for more help in protecting their fragile coast, the destruction of which meant there was little to slow down the hurricane before it hit the city. It is inappropriate to "blame" anyone for a natural disaster. But given how frequently the impact of this one was predicted, and given the scale of the economic and human catastrophe that has resulted, it is certainly fair to ask questions about disaster preparations. Congress, when it returns, should rise above the blame game and instead probe the state of the nation's preparation for handling major natural catastrophes, particularly those that threaten crucial regions of the country.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution - No plan ever made to help New Orleans' most vulnerable
Each time you hear a federal, state or city official explain what he or she is doing to help New Orleans, consider the opening paragraphs of a July 24 story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
"City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."
And yet apparently there was no emergency plan and no resources to evacuate "the carless, the homeless, the aged and infirm."
In this era when we are a nation at risk of terrorism and natural disasters, we can only hope that what is happening in New Orleans is not built into the fabric of our national homeland security policy. We should provide security for everyone, including the poor, aged and infirm.
The Chicago Sun-Times - The New Orleans tragedy...
Watch for a public uproar when statistics show how many impoverished citizens of New Orleans were killed by Hurricane Katrina because they couldn't afford to flee.
"We knew the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans and Mississippi hard. Why didn't we send buses in to get the poor people out before disaster hit? We spend millions on recovery and rescue AFTERWARDS . . . when we could have alleviated so much death BEFORE?"
The Houston Chronicle - We saw it coming, yet we still didn't prepare
No one can say they didn't see it coming.
For years before Hurricane Katrina roared ashore Monday morning, devastating the Gulf Coast, officials from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have been warning about their vulnerability to the storms that swirl menacingly in the Gulf of Mexico every hurricane season.
Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation.
"If we had been investing resources in restoring our coast, it wouldn't have prevented the storm but the barrier islands would have absorbed some of the tidal surge," said Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La. "People's lives are at stake. We need to take this more seriously."
The Los Angeles Times - The Crescent City blues
Certainly the sacrifices of New Orleans need a kind of national reckoning, one that would enable the people to see the president who forgot to care for what he is. Every great disaster -- the Blitz, 9/11, the tsunami -- has a political dimension. The dilatory performance of George Bush during the past week has been outrageous. Almost as unbelievable as Katrina itself is the fact that the leader of the free world has been outshone by the elected leaders of a region renowned for governmental ineptitude.
This president who flew away Monday to fundraisers in the West while the hurricane blew away entire towns in coastal Mississippi is very much his father's son. George H.W. Bush couldn't quite connect to the victims of Hurricane Andrew, nor did he mind being photographed tooling his golf cart around Kennebunkport while American troops died in the first Iraq war. After preemptively declaring a state of emergency, the younger Bush seemed equally determined to show his successors how to vacation through an apocalypse.
Finally, a few cartoons I found in my traverse of MSM editorials on Katrina...
These questions are totally righteous IMO. The reality is that a natural disaster or terrorist attack could occur at any time. It is not an act of Bush-hating to question how this went so badly and to try to plan so that improvements are made in the future.
An interested editorial I read in The LA Times talked about preparedness in the advent of a major earthquake. They are asking those types of questions, thinking about a catastrphe in their region and their ability to respond. The Miami Herald had an article on preparedness for another category 5 of Katrina's size and duration and indicated that Andrew, while strong, was much smaller and went through more quickly. They are now thinking about the devastation that could be wrought on South Florida with a Katrina-like storm and, hopefully, planning ahead.
New Orleans and the whole Gulf region deserved better. Those people deserved better - the ones that survived and the ones that didn't. Asking question and issuing criticisms will help us step forward in the next tragedy.