- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Broken levees and the Katrina blame game

As politicians engage in blaming everyone but themselves for the local, state and federal slowness in responding to Hurricane Katrina’s New Orleans victims, little is being said about the real culprit — the inadequate levee system. The human suffering in New Orleans wasn’t caused primarily by the high winds or even the storm surge of this Category 4 hurricane; it was caused by failure of the city’s underengineered levee system.

Once the levees failed, it was nearly impossible to get help to those who needed it. Without electric power or telephone communications, residents couldn’t tell rescuers where they were located.

It was well-known that the levee system was not designed to survive a slow-moving Category 3 hurricane, and yet, here was Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane heading straight for New Orleans, where it landed as a Category 4 storm. If fixing blame is the game here, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin wins first prize, with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco a close second. They knew the levees couldn’t withstand Katrina’s fury, but they didn’t order mandatory evacuations in time.

Getting help to those who needed it was slowed by the flooding and complicated by bureaucratic and administrative gridlock. Donald Trump, who knows a thing or two about the engineering of structures, told Neil Cavuto on Fox News Thursday that the real fault for this tragedy lies with the inadequate levees.

So, when the inevitable congressional investigation begins, the only question that must be answered by Louisiana public officials is when did they know that the levees would fail in a Category 4 hurricane? If they answer honestly that they knew all along, they should be removed from office and barred from ever holding the fate of people’s lives in their hands again.

RICHARD W. RESSLER

North Olmsted, Ohio

As recriminations flow in the wake of Katrina, Democrats have their fingers fixed on the Federal Emergency Management Agency as if a wave of catatonia has locked them in place.

There is plenty of finger-pointing to go around, and Washington is only one target in a target-rich environment. Listening to Democrats, however, you would think FEMA is a first responder when disaster hits. It’s not; it bats cleanup.

You would not know the flow chart for evacuating the city’s poor doesn’t begin with the feds or even the White House. It begins with state and local authorities. The criticism of FEMA — some of it justified — would be far more credible if Democrats were capable of holding members of their party accountable for the debacle that followed the storm. However, they’re not. To them, it is all President Bush’s fault — including the storm.

Fortunately, the American people have far too much common sense to allow the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana — both Democrats — to escape any of the blame.

The epicenter of culpability begins in New Orleans and radiates outward. So does culpability for the poor who were abandoned by local and state officials as the flood waters rose in New Orleans. If Mr. Bush failed the poor because the federal response was haphazard and a few days late, Democrats have decades for which to answer.

THOMAS M. BEATTIE

Mount Vernon

The liberal levees are broken and have swamped the country with venomous sewage for far too long. The constant attacks and vitriolic screeds levied against President Bush and the federal government immediately following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation are filled with poisonously political winds containing few weight-bearing facts. Hot air bags of filth have replaced hardened levees of integrity, making liberals sound more ignorant than they probably are. In either case, perhaps they should seek the truth before blaming the federal government for all that went wrong in New Orleans. Like many (if not most) Americans, I have had it with race-baiting, do-nothing liberals who root against our nation’s success — both at home and abroad.

The hundreds of flooded and unused buses in a New Orleans parking lot are the perfect symbols for the Democratic Party’s demise — sadly stranded, uselessly incompetent and filled with toxic waste. I despise attempts to turn tragedy into political capital, pity the Democrats’ and celebrate every day that their party is out of power. The stench of previous liberal governance and media dominance is slowly receding, but some national disasters take time to cleanse.

If liberals really want to help, they can send money to the American Red Cross, take in a displaced American citizen or grab a shovel. If they need help, they should start by educating themselves on the facts as they really are, not the lies the Democrats wish to circulate.

The federal government can do only so much, especially when blocked by state and local incompetence. It appears that extremism, liberalism or global warming has melted liberals’ ability to think clearly, act decisively and behave honorably. It is time for liberals, Democrats and the elite media to evacuate their abhorrent ways, abandon their stalled buses and seek higher ground. Put America first.

MICHAEL TETRICK

Chicago

The Roberts confirmation hearings

The Washington Times’ readers didn’t need to rely on the Amazing Kreskin, with his ESP powers, to predict that two top Democrats would open the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday using the storm and its attendant sorrows to continue their endless attack on President Bush and his nominee for chief justice, Judge John G. Roberts Jr. (“Contentious start to Roberts hearings,” Nation, Monday).

If only Mr. Bush had nominated former Attorney General Ramsey Clark or perhaps Mother Teresa or even Bishop Desmond Tutu, it would have been a surprise to have these two Democrats — Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Patrick Leahy — begin Monday’s session meshing Mr. Bush’s nomination of Judge Roberts with the failures of Katrina disaster recovery efforts.

The odds in Las Vegas, however, are that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., albeit asking their “hard” questions as promised, but with each having one eye on the Oval Office and the other eye zeroed in on voters in the red states, will inconspicuously vote “aye” when Judge Roberts’ nomination reaches the Senate floor. Of course, Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Richard J. Durbin aren’t running in 2008, so we all know they’ll vote against Judge Roberts.

I believe the expression is,”It’s all cut and dried.”

WILLIAM H. SMITH

Palm Desert, Calif.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s concept of commitment to constitutional principles as related to our judiciary is ridiculous (“Roberts comes with ‘no agenda’,” Page 1, yesterday). Judges are to uphold the Constitution and the laws enacted by the people through their legislatures, not their “principles.”

Regardless of the underlying principles of a legal document, it is the objective language that defines how those principles will be exercised.

It is the duty of the courts to apply the law as it is — not interpret its true meaning as if it is written in code or alter it to fit their subjective version of underlying principles. If the Constitution or laws need to be changed, there are specific constitutional requirements for bringing about such changes through the legislative authority of the people.

In a constitutional system of government by the people, legislative authority must be the ultimate authority. The people create the government and can alter it through constitutional procedures. Members of any branch of government who fail to adhere to the law and the Constitution must, pursuant to our citizen-controlled government, be accountable to the people.

BARBARA TINDOL

Bronwood, Ga.

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