2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Frontline Exposes the Indifference of Bush, the Failure of FEMA, and the Big Loser was New Orleans
classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
29 March 2009
I am surprised that I am the first person in 2 1/2 years to comment on
this very important documentary about the failure of the US Federal
Government in its response to the crisis called Hurricane Katrina. Most
Americans would rather watch American Idol or Big Bang Theory than see
newsworthy material that would help them better understand the role of
their government in terms of matters of crises. And since the public
would rather consume escapist television of no consequence, bad leaders
who have a modicum of charisma whose political philosophies, agenda,
and aspirations may not be completely understood will continue to
occupy positions of power. And mainly because their constituencies are
largely uninformed. This excellent documentary by Frontline exposes the
many complex reasons, most of them political, as to why FEMA and
federal troops were almost a week late in arriving in New Orleans after
the perfect storm.
Frontline reveals several key factors as to why the disaster area
created by Katrina escalated from an emergency to a catastrophe to a
crisis during the aftermath of the hurricane. At the forefront is FEMA,
The Federal Emergency Management Agency. Under both President Bush's,
FEMA became an agency in which top positions could be filled as
political favors, almost like a throw-away organization. Joe Allbaugh
was Bush's nominee to head FEMA beginning in 2001. Not because of
Allbaugh's extensive experience with handling domestic disasters, of
which he had no experience at all. It was a political favor as Allbaugh
was one of the chief campaign managers in Bush's successful
presidential election bid in 2000. Allbaugh's successor was Michael D.
Brown, who also had a sum total of 0 experience in navigating
By contrast, President Clinton did away with the political appointees
of FEMA in 1993 and had nominated James Lee Witt, a man who had
extensive experience in dealing with natural disasters and state
emergency management. Witt created project IMPACT in which FEMA worked
with local states and urban areas to enhance disaster preparedness.
Unfortunately, New Orleans did not participate in the program while
Witt was at FEMA's helm. And the program was cut under the Bush
administration just when they were working on New Orleans, presumably
using money that could have helped Louisana better prepare for the
hurricane. Bush's political philosophy was to cut such programs viewed
as "costly" and "unnecessary". Very positive programs such as the war
in Iraq were of course exempt from such spending cuts.
Certainly it is debatable whether or not Brown acted appropriately
during the crisis. He does not come off very well in the documentary
and tries to defend what appears to be a disaster of leadership. But
maybe it's not entirely Brown's fault. He had never had experience in
emergency management before joining FEMA at the behest of Allbaugh as
the documentary points out. It sounds like Allbaugh's and Brown's wives
used to shop together. Brown was a lawyer with some political
experience. His position before joining FEMA? He was the Judges and
Stewards Commissioner for The Arabian Horse Association which registers
Arabian horses in the United States. What in the world does this have
to do with Emergency Management? Why would Brown, or Allbaugh for that
matter, take positions for which they were clearly not qualified?
Because the Bush administration liked to hand out executive leadership
positions as political favors rather than place people with true
This is a behind-the-scenes look at the political impact of those
decisions that became a disaster in-and-of themselves in terms of the
aftermath of Katrina. Bush made hugely inept decisions regarding FEMA.
And what did Bush have to lose? He was already in his second term. New
Orleans paid the ultimate price for the president's failed judgment.
They lost almost everything.
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