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Blanco inadequately explains her failure of leadership

What kind of nimrod do we have in Louisiana for a governor?

QUESTION (from reporter John Hill): Are you considering appointing a single person to be in charge of the state's recovery process, a sort of recovery czar?

ANSWER (from Gov.
Kathleen Blanco): We’re looking at all our options.

I thought this was settled. Didn’t she hire the ex-head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Clinton political hack James Lee Witt to do this? Maybe the overwhelming amount of criticism she has received from home and afar from her handling of the crisis from before Hurrican Katrina struck to days after has changed her mind? If she has, that's a good thing.

Q: In hindsight, what would you have done differently in the first response?

A: Well, I would have placed less confidence in a structure elsewhere (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and depended more on ourselves.

I see, so Blanco’s strategy, reminiscent of her core liberal beliefs, was to stick a hand out and wait for somebody either to put something of value into it or to grasp it to pull the state out of harm? It would seem so, given one expert’s evaluation of the quality of the state’s plan for an emergency like this.

Q: CNN aired a video of you and Denise Bottcher (press secretary) on the Wednesday after the hurricane. You were having a private conversation in which you said under your breath: "I should have specifically asked for more troops," or something like that. What was that about?

A: Well, that was at a point in time when we were wondering if we were getting any significant federal aid. I guess because of the dynamics of the situation, when I asked for help, then I started getting bombarded with, “Did you ask specifically for this, that or the other.” I'll tell you what. When people ask me for help, I know what kind of help I can get to them, and I can get it to them pretty quickly. I asked them (what they need). Nobody bothered to ask me those questions.

I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again, how long has she been governor? Didn’t we go through all of this about a year ago? She sure seemed to know what to do then.

Q: What were the biggest errors in the state government's response? What were you referring to when you said, "The buck stops here?

A: I'm just talking about everything. We are going to review every procedure. We have a model operation in the Office of Emergency Preparedness that other states have come in to model on ….

May whatever deity you believe in, if any, help you if this is a model for other states. With a vague, indeterminate, if not unrealistic, plan like this?

(answer continued): Did we anticipate the levees breaking? Well, that was always a possibility, but you pray and hope against hope that that kind of thing doesn't happen ….

According to at least two sources, this was a matter of time given the state of the levee system at that time. Blanco’s not to blame for the levees being inadequate because she’s only been in office (although one could argue as an elected official for much of her adult life maybe she should have used whatever influence she could have to have changed the situation), but, given that reality, she could have planned and led in a way that assumed, even if Katrina had missed, that there would be disaster anyway, rather than hoping it wouldn’t. To use a trite phrase, people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

(answer continued): For instance, at the Superdome, the mayor brought 12,000 people in there, so FEMA ordered 500 buses, thinking they were going to evacuate 12,000 people. By the time we evacuated the Superdome with our school buses -- the FEMA buses didn't come in until (Aug. 31) -- we had evacuated some 20,000 to 30,000 people out of the Superdome itself. And then the same number just kind of gathered up in the Convention Center, and that was not a preplanned place that people were supposed to evacuate to.

Uh, but that’s what the plan for New Orleans suggested (oops … the city won’t let anybody look at that link anymore, but, ha! MSNBC nicely provides us with a copy) – head to the Superdome (although it also says nobody should be told that until right before the evacuation order went out). Are we to blame tens of thousands of people for showing up there because it was high ground and the plan’s reference to corralling school buses to take people out of the city never got implemented, stranding them all? And to keep showing up? And to go to another large building on high ground not far down Poydras Avenue, the Convention Center?

Q: Have there been political problems with a Democrat administration at the state and local level dealing with a Republican national administration?

A: I'd like to think not, but what happened on the political side (happened) on the national level, not at our level. It happened with what I call the political talking heads (on TV). Certainly, some decided to jump on the president because there was a slow federal response. So they beat up on him for a day or so. ... And so, his people didn't like his taking a beating, so they turned the political talking heads on the governor, and then they turned them on (New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin).

I’m more of a pair of typing hands, but I began to look at the decisions being made the morning Katrina passed by. By Wednesday the world could see Blanco already was over her head, not a good combination when New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was as well (and so was Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard – so much so he couldn’t even get his story straight). The breakdown of leadership already shone clearly through the darkened streets on the greater New Orleans area but, out of deference to efforts to contain the tragedy, I chose not to write about the actions of a specific few until the next week.

In short, Blanco doesn’t think she did anything wrong, it was others' failures that made her look bad – consistent with her vague speech to the Legislature where she “took responsibility” but did not offer to endure the consequences of any missteps she made. To truly take “responsibility,” you either have to accept those consequences (in this case, resignation) or describe your culpability and explain how you would act differently in the future. Instead, she’s averred it was the media’s fault, or FEMA’s fault, or the federal government’s, anybody but hers. From what she indicates, maybe the VRWC is on her tail, too!

(answer continued): We all had our turn getting beat up. You know, I didn't have time for that.

There was no “turns” here because of a chattering class seeking to pound people for political or audience-attracting purposes. Governor, you got “beat up” because you richly deserved it. No doubt you “didn’t have time for that” because, besides trying to extricate the state out of this mess your partly helped exacerbate, you just didn’t want to face that reality.

I’m sure most of the time (except when she talks about evil tobacco companies and their heartless bedfellows against cigarette taxes) Blanco is a nice person and means well. But since her definition of decisive action is to call in a study group, she choked in this important task when a cool head, a leadership personality, and rolling up sleeves rather than sticking a hand out were essential. No doubt an emergency of this magnitude would try anybody, but we need leaders who can show to us at least they can try to lead, rather than wait on or blame others.

And since these episodes occur from time to time in government, voters in 2007 (if the people don’t sooner) are going to remember the old saying, “fool me once ….”


Anonymous said...

Political leaders of this sort, those that seem to be born into the system, are elevated into leadership soles without qualifications. The New Orleans case is about being politically savy in getting the job and few voters seem to ask about qualifications. We do the same each election. We elect local city and parish officials based on which candidate puts out the most yard signs. These people make the decisions for us.

State government is on the burner today. Next year after more sewerage spills when our city of Shreveport can not find the funds to maintain such, the new major better have the skills to combat the many problems. The next mayor of Shreveport will inherit trouble and better be qualified to hit the ground running.

It's nice to have a Jeff Sadow. He tells it like it is. I wonder why his other associates of higher learning fail to take such interest and give their opinions?
Jimmy Couvillion

Anonymous said...

To answer your question why others don't opine is because of a vindictive system in this state that has a long memory! Get on the wrong side of the supposed "powers to be" and you can kiss it good by! I've been there. Right or wrong; truth or untruth is irrelevent.

Anonymous said...

Very well done.