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The Hughes Report
Saturday, September 10, 2005
New Orleans Knee Jerks
Topic: New Orleans Disaster
The national media tossed aside all pretense of objectivity in the wake of the New Orleans hurricane, and Democrats are taking advantage.

The worst national disaster in U.S. history prior to New Orleans was the 1900 hurricane that destroyed much of Galveston, Texas, then the major port west of New Orleans, known as "the Wall Street of the Southwest," with a population of 45,000. Estimates of loss of life in the Houston-Galveston area range from 8,000 to 12,000. Actual video of the aftermath, filmed by Thomas Edison's crew, may be downloaded at http://www.1900storm.com/film/index.lasso.

Early reports suggest that the loss of life in New Orleans pales in comparison. We hope so, but broadcast news coverage gives the definite impression that New Orleans was far worse than all previous disasters, with overtones of racism and federal incompetence.

Media response and that of partisan Democrats makes crystal clear that since 9/11, both have been lying in wait for an occasion, i.e., any sign of weakness in the Bush Administration's response to terrorism or some other national emergency. The press flew to the scene and immediately began prompting victims to question the federal response, by which they mean the president.

On CNN's "American Morning" on September 1, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi was urged by host Miles O'Brien to confirm that the Bush Administration had "dropped the ball." "Now, Miles," Barbour defended, "if this is an interview or an argument, I don't care. But if you want to let me tell you what I think, I will." He continued, "I'm not going to agree because I don't believe it's true. The federal government came in here from the first minute -- in fact, in advance. They have been tremendously helpful."

On Meet the Press September 4, host Tim Russert unleashed a diatribe on Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. Russert noted President Bush's comment that they did not know the levees would break, then referred to reports that predicted such a collapse in the event of a major storm. Chertoff explained that in fact the next morning newspapers were reporting that New Orleans had been spared, and what they did not expect was the backlash on the Lake Ponchartrain side of the storm. When Russert continued his accusations, Chertoff patiently explained a second time, but Russert was not listening. He repeated his assertions later in the program.

I have watched reporters such as Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News tendentiously prompt people to blame the government, the war in Iraq, and tax cuts for an allegedly slow government response all through the crisis.

Nina Totenberg, that paragon of objectivity, stated flatly on Inside Washington (September 4), "For years, we have cut our taxes, cut our taxes and let the infrastructure throughout the country go and this is just the first of a number of other crumbling things that are going to happen to us."

When Kyra Phillips of CNN asked some hardball questions of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, however, Pelosi accused her of working in behalf of the White House and suggested she should go on their payroll.

If there is blame to be placed for New Orleans, it must start with local authorities. New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718 and has been threatened by floods ever since. Louisiana has begged for federal billions to "fix" the problem, but that would be akin to Boston's Big Dig or, if imaginable, some greater boondoggle. They make millions off Texans in their casinos. Have they spent any of that on disaster preparation? Gambling is not even legal in Louisiana, but state and local governments turn a blind eye to that.

The Department of Homeland Security was never meant to be a first responder. Local authorities were. Mayor Ray Nagin failed to make adequate preparations such as using public transportation to evacuate the poor or even securing the Superdome. According to Newsmax.com, state officials under the authority of Governor Kathleen Blanco blocked the Red Cross from delivering supplies to the city after the storm.

Let the blame fall where the fault lies.

Copyright 2005 Paul A. Hughes

Posted by hughes at 8:03 PM CDT

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