- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

Nobles: The first-responders, who, outnumbered and under-resourced, have done their best to save the Gulf Coast.

The anarchy followed as quickly as the 25-foot storm surge that wiped out the Mississippi coast. Caught in the middle of rising floodwaters, rotting corpses and a citizenry gone mad were those who went in innocently to care for the survivors: the police officers, emergency medical teams, the Coast Guard, the National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.

With little or no orders or coordination coming from the top, these first-responders made do with what they had. As bad as things still are almost a week later, it would be a lot worse if not for their selfless sense of duty. As of yesterday, the Coast Guard had rescued more than 1,500 people. The police officers, wading through the squalor, initially ignored the looting around them to search for survivors. But when the looters turned on their protectors, the officers suddenly found themselves in a war zone and outnumbered. The medical teams caring for the refugees housed in the Superdome had to endure rising water, no electricity, food shortages, filth and snipers. The National Guard, many recently returned from Iraq, were forced to fight again, this time against Americans. And the Army Corps of Engineers worked tirelessly to clog the levees.

When the nation is finally able to look back on Katrina it will remember these courageous men and women. Indeed, they will stand alongside the firefighters of September 11, who also didn’t flinch in the face of an insurmountable task.

For doing their duty, the first-responders are the Nobles of the week.

Knaves: Gwendolyn Hemphill and James Baxter II, for stealing millions from the Washington Teachers Union.

Probably because so many are giving so much right now, what Hemphill and Baxter did seems even more despicable than it might otherwise be. Of course, when two union officials pilfer funds from the paychecks of working teachers and retirees, it can’t get much worse.

Hemphill and Baxter, who were both convicted Wednesday on all counts, conspired with former union President Barbara Bullock, who pleaded guilty in 2003, and looted nearly $5 million between 1996 and 2002 to pay for everything from Washington Wizards tickets to furs and weddings. They’re scheduled to be sentenced in December and each faces 15 to 21 years in prison.

For their greed and lies, Hemphill and Baxter are the Knaves of the week.

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