September 5, 2005

The Politics of the Last Five Minutes

While New Orleans sinks, conservatives are busy blaming the Democratic mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic governor of Louisiana for incompetence. Meanwhile, liberals are busy blaming FEMA, the White House, and the federal government generally. Both sides are landing quite a few punches, and it looks to me like a government failure from the ground up (or from the top down). There are no leadership heroes in this story - at least none that we’ve been made aware of. The heroes are grunt-level individuals most of us have never even heard of and probably never will.

I could cite plenty of leadership failures all around, but I don’t think I have anything new to add that you probably haven’t seen elsewhere. And now that the worst of the humanitarian crisis has passed, I find myself a lot less angry than I recently was. And I’m glad I was too busy over the weekend to lodge too many complaints in public.

I find myself at least partly persuaded by both Roger L. Simon and Dean Esmay. Heck, I stole my title from Roger L. Simon. The Politics of the Last Five Minutes pretty much speaks for itself.

And here is Dean Esmay from a couple of days ago.
I'm going to go back to what I said before: the recriminations about the Federal response are more about a) politics, and b) the 24 hour news cycle. When this is all over, mostly we'll look back and see that the response was fast and timely and effective, and that if there's blame there's plenty to go around for everybody, but for the most part there'll be the simple truth: a disaster we knew for decades could happen came to pass, and efforts to blame one party, or to jump all over first responders for not responding fast enough to the biggest American disaster in a century just look dumb. It's not holding people accountable, it's just backseat driver nonsense.


Even those horrible schoolbus photos don't make me mad anymore. All I'll say is that anybody who refuses to blame all who had a hand in this—including, ultimately, the voters—is a hypocrite.
I have my doubts that we’ll really look back on this and think the response was fast and timely. It wasn’t. There were all sorts of very real problems. George W. Bush himself said the response was not acceptable – and he wasn’t talking about the mayor of New Orleans when he said that.

But it does seem less slow in hindsight. Perhaps that’s partly because the last five minutes look better now than they did when thousands were still trapped in Terror Dome. So maybe I’m still doing what Roger L. Simon is warning me not to do. Maybe I’m still stuck in the now. If so, so be it. That’s where I am. The local and federal authorities do seem to have their act more or less together now, albeit belatedly. It was easy to get mad, but it’s harder to stay mad.

UPDATE: Lee Harris says rage has its place. While it isn't always a good thing, sometimes it is. He's right.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 5, 2005 11:13 PM
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