As my regular readers know, I am not often at a loss for words, but I’ve been struggling all day to give voice to my feelings about the horror we have watched unfold in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And so as I finish putting order to my thoughts, I’d like to quickly point you towards what the editorial boards of some major newspapers are saying, as collated by the folks at Editor and Publisher. Note that some of these are very conservative newspapers.
Dallas Morning News
Who is in charge?
Losing New Orleans to a natural disaster is one thing, but losing her to hopeless gunmen and a shameful lack of response is unfathomable. How is it that the U.S. military can conquer a foreign country in a matter of days, but can’t stop terrorists controlling the streets of America or even drop a case of water to desperate and dying Americans?
President Bush, please see what’s happening. The American people want to believe the government is doing everything it can do — not to rebuild or to stabilize gas prices — just to restore the most basic order. So far, they are hearing about Herculean efforts, but they aren’t seeing them.
The Washington Times
Troops are finally moving into New Orleans in realistic numbers, and it’s past time. What took the government so long? The thin veneer separating civilization and chaos, which we earlier worried might collapse in the absence of swift action, has collapsed.
We expected to see, many hours ago, the president we saw standing atop the ruin of the World Trade Center, rallying a dazed country to action. We’re pleased he finally caught a ride home from his vacation, but he risks losing the one trait his critics have never dented: His ability to lead, and be seen leading.
“I hope people don’t point — play politics during this period.” That was President Bush’s response yesterday to criticism of the U.S. government’s inexplicably inadequate relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina.
Sorry, Mr. President, legitimate questions are being asked about the lack of rescue personnel, equipment, food, supplies, transportation, you name it, four days after the storm. It’s not “playing politics” to ask why. It’s not “playing politics” to ask questions about what Americans watched in horror on TV yesterday: elderly people literally dying on the street outside the New Orleans convention center because they were sick and no one came to their aid.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
But whatever the final toll, the wrenching misery and trauma confronting the people of New Orleans is much greater than it should be — as it is, in fact, for tens of thousands of people along the strip of Mississippi that was most brutally assaulted by the storm. The immediate goal must be to ease that suffering. The second goal must be to understand how we came to this sorry situation.
How do you justify cutting $250 million in scheduled spending for crucial pump and levee work in the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), authorized by Congress in 1995?
How do you explain the almost total lack of coordination among federal, state and local officials both in Louisiana and Mississippi? No one appeared in charge.
Des Moines Register
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was the first practical test of the new homeland-security arrangements and the second test of President Bush in the face of a national crisis.
The performance of both has been less than stellar so far.
Katrina was a disaster that came with at least two days of warning, and it has been more than four days since the storm struck. Yet on Thursday, refugees still huddled unrescued in the unspeakable misery of the New Orleans Superdome. Patients in hospitals without power and water clung to life in third-world conditions. Untold tragedies lie yet to be discovered in the rural lowlands of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.