What really happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (search)? That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo".
With so much misinformation and spin about Katrina, we decided to do a methodical investigation into exactly what happened after the hurricane ripped through New Orleans (search). And here's what we found out.
We begin with the Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation Plan (search), which is what the mayor and the governor were supposed to follow. One key provision in that plan states, "The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles may be used to provide transportation for individuals who require assistance in evacuating."
But those government vehicles were not used on a large scale to get people out of town. Instead, Governor Kathleen Blanco (search) and Mayor Ray Nagin (search) decided to allow New Orleans residents to stay if they wanted, even though a mandatory evacuation order had been issued by the mayor about 14 hours before the storm hit.
Nagin did authorize transportation to get folks to the Superdome (search), which was designated a refuge of last resort. However, most city buses stood idle and on low ground and were quickly flooded by Katrina.
Even though the mayor opened the Superdome to thousands, there was not nearly enough security inside, nor enough food and water. Mayor Nagin still has not explained why a mandatory evacuation is not mandatory. What say you, Mayor Nagin?
Now Governor Blanco also made major mistakes. After asking and getting the federal government to declare the hurricane zone a disaster area two days before the storm hit, the governor failed to send any National Guard (search) troops in to secure New Orleans and the surrounding parishes before the storm. Why?
She also failed to ask for more troops from the feds, knowing she only had about 6,000 to control the city of 1.3 million. Why not ask for more?
Like the mayor, Governor Blanco has no explanation. Surely she knew the potential for chaos. Why not send the Guard in immediately?
Then when the levees were breached, the Guard found itself unable to get into New Orleans. They're outside. It was not until Wednesday, August 31st, three days after the storm hit, that Blanco admitted she didn't have enough security in the city.
Once the levees were breached, the situation then became a national security issue. And the feds, already having the power to act, should have arrived in force. But the homeland security office and President Bush were 24 hours late in taking decisive action.
So summing up, the mayor allowed citizens to defy a mandatory evacuation and didn't use city buses to get them out of town. The governor didn't send the Guard in before the storm. And that caused the New Orleans police to be quickly overwhelmed. The evacuation plan clearly states that a refuge of last resort may not have food and water available, but I wonder how many people knew that.
Also, how did the mayor and governor think any kind of structure could be maintained without crowd control?
Again, we believe Blanco and Nagin should be forced to answer those questions. And that's “The Memo.”
The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
One of America's best-loved TV actors has died. Bob Denver (search) played Gilligan and Maynard G. Krebs, one of my personal favorites, on the "Dobie Gillis" program. You may remember that.
Denver was 70 years old and died from complications caused by cancer and heart problems.
Mr. Denver was semi-retired in his later years but is remembered fondly by many Baby Boomers. We salute him and offer our condolences to his family.