Taking Responsibility

The water is going down in New Orleans (search) and they are recovering and counting the dead.

The number is shockingly high — over 400 — even though that number is considerably below the near hysterical prediction from the mayor that there would be 10,000 dead.

There will be relief at first that the number appears to be low and then the reality will set in. Those 45 who died in the hospital have to be explained. Those 23 who lashed themselves to a rope and tried to walk out in the flood will have to be explained.

There is the question about who is to be most embarrassed by all this.

Obviously the president is teed up. After all, when the French president presided over the deaths of 15,000 elderly in a Paris heat wave, he took the international derision, not the mayor of Paris.

But there is the question of what you expect a president to do. Generally, the president of the United States has the role of backstop for the governor and the mayor. He is supposed to render aid, and he is empowered to ask the governor for the right to take over the National Guard and take over the whole rescue operation.

Evidently, the governor in Louisiana was asked by the president and she refused to relinquish that control.

That suggests she thought she could handle it. It also suggests she should answer the question about how all those people died.

It also suggests the mayor had an obligation to have a plan that would have focused on the most helpless in New Orleans and would have pushed help through the storm to them in order to get them out.

That didn't happen.

I'm not just blowing smoke for the president. He bears the responsibility for what didn't happen when the feds were supposed to be on the scene. He has fired his FEMA (search) director. He has marshaled admirals and generals to mobilize the troops into the disaster zone.

The president did take the blame Tuesday for what didn't go right on the federal level and he should.

But everybody should be on notice after the experience of New Orleans that their governor and their mayor are in charge of the first rescue response and everybody should hold their governor and their mayor responsible.

We should consider ourselves warned.

That's My Word.

Watch John Gibson weekdays at 5 p.m. ET on "The Big Story" and send your comments to: myword@foxnews.com