Thursday, September 01, 2005

So it begins

This piece in Slate today states the obvious about the people left behind in New Orleans. Tough questions about socio-economic inequalities for which Louisiana is eventually going to have to answer. On a related note, David Brooks in the New York Times weighs in on the political fallout of natural disasters. He ends with this: "Civic arrangements work or they fail. Leaders are found worthy or wanting. What's happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come." More immediate questions about how Louisiana is reacting are raised in today's Union Leader (NH). The editorial, titled "Louisiana government fails its people," has some harsh words for Gov. Blanco: "On Wednesday, two days after landfall, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco was still trying to decide how the state would react. She had no plan for evacuating the thousands of refugees stuck in the Superdome, no plan for finding survivors elsewhere, no plan for handling corpses, and no plan for stopping looters. And we thought Gov. John Lynch [NH gov] was indecisive." A more hopeful discussion of the state and the nation's ability to respond comes in today's WSJ from columnist Peggy Noonan. Writing about Governor Blanco, Noonan spoke about the need for leadership in times of crisis. She observes that Mississippi's Haley Barbour has responded well. Turning her attention to Louisiana, Noonan writes, "Louisiana's Gov. Kathleen Blanco was shakier, but she can recover. She wore her heart on her face, not always helpful in a leader in crisis. In her early news conferences she looked concussed. Her presentation seemed scattered. This was human--as governor she was one of the first to understand how bad the storm's impact was--but politics is a tough room. Early on she was clearly trying to make people understand how bad the situation is. She had to. But the overall impression she left was not informational and hope-giving but shook-up and dispiriting. She can turn this around. The waters may have peaked; a comeback will at some point commence. She showed anguish and now she can show fortitude, like a fighter made hungry by pain. Go, Kathleen, your state needs you. People will take their cues from you. Butch up, punch back, wade in. Literally. Be there." Why is critical analysis of events unfolding in Louisiana coming only from media outside Louisiana?