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Friday, September 02, 2005

Thought on New Orleans mayor saying Fed aid "too slow"

How seriously should we take New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin when says the federal aid is too slow in arriving. My answer, as cold-hearted as it seems, is that we should not take it seriously. We should, instead, move on to geting his city evacuated and under control, two things he didn't manage to do, regardless of what may have been heroic efforts on his part.

I am reminded that in combat, almost every platoon leader under fire has the view that higher command is either willfully ignoring his specific plight or too stupid to undertand that the main thrust of the enemy is being directed at him. If we let the platoon leaders decide where reinforcements should go, chaos would result. Instead, leaders at the next level and even at the level above that have to have develop a clear sense of what is really happening on the field and allocate scarce resources accordingly.

With all due respect, the mayor -trapped in his city and lacking in communication eqiuipment - is in the worst possible position to know what is happening around him. He, despite being the mayor of a major city, is no better off than a rookie platoon leader facing fire for the first time. Comments like the following tend, I think, to prove my point:
In the radio interview, Nagin's frustration was palpable.

"I've been out there man. I flew in these helicopters, been in the crowds talking to people crying, don't know where their relatives are. I've done it all man, and I'll tell you man, I keep hearing that it's coming. This is coming, that is coming. And my answer to that today is BS, where is the beef? Because there is no beef in this city. "

Nagin said, "Get every Greyhound bus in the country and get them moving."

Nagin called for a moratorium on press conferences "until the resources are in this city."

"They're feeding the people a line of bull, and they are spinning and people are dying," he said.

"I don't know whether it's the governor's problem, or it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get ... on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now," Nagin said.

"They thinking small, man, and this is a major, major deal," he said.

"Get off your asses and let's do something."

The mayor said except for a few "knuckleheads," the looting is the result of desperate people just trying to find food and water to survive.
If the mayor had a sense of the the larger picture he would grasp the difficulty in getting anything into his city since all major routes are closed and that his problems are simply one part of a devastated coastline that starts below New Orleans and runs to Pensacola. He might grasp the enormous problems facing the agencies and the leaders he is criticizing. Sometimes the soldier in the field is the worst person to talk to about how a battle is being waged (which is why we usually don't let platton leader Lt Smith talk directly to the President about how the total force should be deployed to solve Lt Smith's immediate problem on the front line).

This is one of those times.

I suspect that given the time, we could find plenty of people in the his constituency who would be quite vocal on the mayor's performance of his duties before and during this crisis, and many of them will be as ignorant of the big picture as the mayor seems to be.

Watching the news coverage and the finger-pointing, I am haunted by a line from an otherwise inapplicable Bob Dylan song, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol"
But you who philosophize, disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face, now ain't the time for
your tears.
Now is not the time, Mr. Mayor, for your rhetoric. Work to solve the problems before you and point out areas that need special attention to those who are rushing to help you.

You can lambast whomever you please after the crisis is past.

UPDATE:
Interesting photo linked to by Jonah Goldberg at the NRO Corner. AP caption:
An aerial view of flooded school buses in a lot, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, in New Orleans, LA. The flood is a result of Hurricane Katrina that passed through the area last Monday.(AP Photo/Phil Coale)
. Hmmm. "Get every Greyhound bus in the country and get them moving." Glass houses, anyone? And yes, I am talking about before the hurricane hit. Wonder how much federal money was used to buy the buses?

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