Then there's this piece in the Chicago Tribune. First three grafs ...
Despite continuous warnings that a catastrophic hurricane could hit New Orleans, the Bush administration and Congress in recent years have repeatedly denied full funding for hurricane preparation and flood control.
That has delayed construction of levees around the city and stymied an ambitious project to improve drainage in New Orleans' neighborhoods.
For instance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested $27 million for this fiscal year to pay for hurricane-protection projects around Lake Pontchartrain. The Bush administration countered with $3.9 million, and Congress eventually provided $5.7 million, according to figures provided by the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
And further down in the piece there's this ...
"I'm not saying it wouldn't still be flooded, but I do feel that if it had been totally funded, there would be less flooding than you have," said Michael Parker, a former Republican Mississippi congressman who headed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from October 2001 until March 2002, when he was ousted after publicly criticizing a Bush administration proposal to cut the corps' budget.
Clearly Parker is yet another Bush-basher.
But this raises an important point.
As I've mentioned a number of <$Ad$>times over recent months, I used to be the worst sort of cable news junky. But over the last couple years I've slowly gone from that to watching almost no TV news at all. And last night, for the first time, I sat down and watched maybe an hour of coverage (on NBC, I think) of the devastation. For what it's worth, their coverage seemed quite good.
None of the facts were any different from what I'd learned from reading a lot of excellent newspaper and Internet coverage and photographic reporting. But events like these are television journalism's forte. Seeing it in motion, in time, conveys the magnitude and scope, the human impact, in ways that written reporting, for all its superiority at factual detail, cannot.
You can't watch that stuff and not know that this, in that corny phrase, was the big one. And even with the best preparation, with all the organizational pistons firing, there was going to be death and dislocation and property damage on a grand scale.
But how much might have been prevented? And how much more rapid might the rescue and recovery have been?
The flooding situation in New Orleans is at least somewhat unique in natural disaster terms, since there's at least a bit of an all or nothing quality to the situation. If the levees had never been breached, or if there'd been fewer breaches, a lot of that water just never would have gotten into the city. And then the situation would be radically different.
I've still heard conflicting reports about how many of the levees were breached as opposed to overtopped, which is very different, if we're considering these issues of maintaining the levees and such. The president told
Diane Sawyer this morning that: "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." So clearly he has no idea what he's talking about. Or perhaps his disaster preparedness folks did his interview prep too. Or maybe he's just trying again to fool the people he's sworn to serve. Shades of Condi. Perhaps we'll get another civil engineer version of Richard Clarke coming forward.
In any case, we can understand the magnitude of this event and
hold the administration to account for its lack of preparation. One doesn't cancel out the other, as much as the president and his defenders might want them to.
And one final point.
We're hearing again and again now that there just wasn't enough money for a lot of this stuff. Terrorism was our big focus. Some kinds of preparedness aren't simply a question of funds. They turn on less elastic resources. But most of what we're hearing about is dollars and planning. So when we hear, 'well, there just wasn't enough for this and
terrorism', or 'we needed the money for Iraq', the real answer is 'nice try'
The president cut taxes every year of his first term in office. He's trying to push through a major tax cut right now
. So it's not terrorism that took away the money. It was tax cuts. And to a degree, same thing for Iraq.
Choices have consequences. And bad consequences require accountability.