Katrina: More Giuliani, Less Clinton

John Tierney believes that the biggest mistake made by state, local, and federal officials was in trying to be Bill Clinton rather than Rudy Guiliani.

Magic Marker Strategy [NYT | RSS]

[…] Mr. Bush made a lot of mistakes last week, but most of his critics are making an even bigger one now by obsessing about what he said and did. We can learn more by listening to men like Jim Judkins, particularly when he explains the Magic Marker method of disaster preparedness. Mr. Judkins is one of the officials in charge of evacuating the Hampton Roads region around Newport News, Va. These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they’re much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help. Instead of relying on a “Good Samaritan” policy – the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors – the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified. “It’s cold, but it’s effective,” Mr. Judkins explained.

That simple strategy could have persuaded hundreds of people to save their own lives in New Orleans. What the city needed most was coldly effective local leaders, not a president in Washington who could feel their pain. It’s the same lesson we should have learned from Sept. 11 and other disasters, yet both liberals and conservatives keep ignoring it.

The liberals bewailing the insensitivity and racism of Republicans in Washington sound like a bad rerun of the 1960’s, when urban riots were blamed on everyone but the rioters and the police. Yes, the White House did a terrible job of responding to Katrina, but Democratic leaders in New Orleans and Louisiana didn’t even fulfill their basic duties. In coastal Virginia – which, by the way, has a large black population and plenty of Republican politicians – Mr. Judkins and his colleagues assume that it’s their job to evacuate people, maintain order and stockpile supplies to last for 72 hours, until federal help arrives. In New Orleans, the mayor seemed to assume all that was beyond his control, just like the mayors in the 1960’s who let the riots occur.

They said their cities couldn’t survive without help from Washington, which proceeded to shower inner cities with money and programs that did more damage than the riots. Cities didn’t recover until some mayors, especially Republicans like Rudy Giuliani, tried self-reliance. Mr. Giuliani was called heartless and racist for cutting the welfare rolls and focusing on crime reduction, but black neighborhoods were the greatest beneficiaries of his policies. He was criticized for ignoring social services as he concentrated on reorganizing the Police and Fire Departments, but his cold effectiveness made the city a more livable place and kept it calm after Sept. 11.

In some ways, Guiliani had it easier after 9/11. Outrage and patriotism blocked out despair and motivated people to act rather than wallow in self pity. Still, Tierney’s basic point is worth heeding.

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. BInfo says:

    If New Orleans didn’t have such liberal crybabies like Broussard in charge, the whole damn mess could have been averted.

    These big-government liberals showed that they are incompetent and are totally dependent upon the welfare state to get anything done.

    Bush and the feds showed extrordinary leadership. When he flew over the place on Wednesday, you could see the resolve in his eyes. He acted and people were saved. These local liberal yahoos did nothing but cry.

    As Barbara Bush said, most of the people who didn’t get out when Bush called the state of emergency were economically disadvantaged anyway, so here is a new, better life given to them in places like Houston.

    Lets hope they learn a lesson in personal responsibility after this whole mess.

  2. Stacy says:

    Actually, that article has it wrong. Bush should have kept on Clinton’s FEMA head, James Lee Witt, who bush himself has praised for his brilliant leadership while head of FEMA. Witt actually has experience in disaster relief and response, unlike Bush’s crony, Brown, who is an expert in Arabian horses.

    But I knew it wouldnt be long before the Right started with the “blame clinton” nonsense.

    And perhaps the Right should be asking itself why Bush didnt provide the leadership that Guliani did during and after 9/11, instead of trying to bring clinton into everything.

  3. D Dobson says:

    Mrs. Bush, the displaced citizens (not refugees) have been separated from family,friends and loved ones, and are now now living with 20,000 strangers in a gigantic dormitory. You call that a better life? Wake up lady. As for the comment about personal responsibility. What lesson are you hoping they learn? Don’t rush to judge. Just because they are poor and disadvantaged does not mean they don’t beleive in personal responsibility.

    Ddobson

  4. Binfo says:

    Just because they are poor and disadvantaged does not mean they don’t beleive in personal responsibility.

    Listen, buddy. These people were told to get out of town and they didn’t. Now they are being given all sorts of free food, housing, and clothes as a result of their inability to be accountable.

    These are the same people who voted for the crying imbeciles Nagin and Broussard–both of whom REJECTED Bush’s personal offer to help out.

    Until we purge these liberals from all levels of government, we are not going to be safe from picking up after other peoples’ bad decisions.

  5. McGehee says:

    the displaced citizens (not refugees)

    Wrong. Displaced citizens are refugees. By definition. A little less energy wasted by pointlessly arguing empty semantical distinctions, might do y’all some good.

  6. jimbo says:

    Tierney is referring to what Giuliani did for NYC before 9/11. Quite simply he drained NYC of its self-defeating cowering before thugs and demagogues. Bush’s failure gives Rudy a good shot at the GOP nomination. Bush’s failure is probably not as grievous as the failure of NOLA’s state and local officials, but it is more visible. The media will give local politicos a pass because they are not interested. Citizens will give the local officials a pass because Bush has given them such a juicy target for blame-shifting by creating the godawful DHS and drowning FEMA in red tape. Rudy in ’08.

  7. Shirlee Jensen says:

    Blinfo

    Is blinfo short for blindfold? I ask, because your comments seem to come from someone in that condition.

  8. Wayne Duncan says:

    HOW MANY THINGS IN THIS COUNTRY WILL NEED TO BE DESTROYED??? THIS MAN IS LEADING THIS COUNTRY INTO THE A DEEP HOLE. THE LIES PRIOR TO WAR !!!! THE WASTE OF THE SURPLUS!!!!! THE POOR GETTING POORER!!! W IS THE ANTICHRIST!!! DO YOU FEEL SAFE?????????? DO YOU FEEL SERVED????? DO YOU FEEL YOU CON TRUST THIS LYING PIECE OF WORK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WAS A REPUBLICAN FOR CLOSE TO FIFTEEN YEARS !!!!!! I AN NOT A LIBERAL, I AM NOT A DEMOCRAT!!!! I AM A AMERICAN!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU DEFEND THIS WAIST OF AN LEADER. HOW CAN YOU DO THIS?????????????

  9. polycon4 says:

    Stop! Think for a minute. IF Mayor Ragin and all of his predecessors had done some effective planning with regards to evacuation,instead of cursing and finger-pointing, the feds could have been a week late and there would not have been nearly so many deaths because people would have gone. How could you have a city below sea level and not plan for the worst. Answer: incompetence. These officials had no clue and little interest when it came to preparation. Their only option is to point the finger somewhere else in order to divert attention away from the problem, themselves. Bush will take the heat not because it’s his fault but because a president is a much bigger target. IF New Orleans would have done it’s job when the feds arrived would have been a non-issue/

  10. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘Lets hope they learn a lesson in personal responsibility after this whole mess.’

    Keep dreaming. They’ve been indoctrinated as gov’t dependents their whole lives. It isn’t going to change now.

  11. Rebecca says:

    Why are so many assuming that the poor of the region were all non-responsible welfare dependents? Many of them were service sector workers – restaurants and hotels – salaries for that are not large. Also, a lot of the displaced are not the poor – EVERYONE from the region is displaced. Think they ALL have mega credit cards to live on for months? Wake up people and stop being mean.

  12. Barry says:

    I love Tierny’s BS. Clinton was Evul, but his FEMA did the job and was a radical improvement on the preceeding and successive FEMA’s.

    Waste space.