Thursday, September 08, 2005

9/11 New York and New Orleans Provide Useful Contrasts

As we approach the fourth anniversary of 9/11, while simultaniously dealing with the toxic swamp that was once New Orleans, contrasts between the two are instructive. At the very least, these contrasts show how far we have come and how much some of us have learned.

First, and most obviously, is the speed at which Bush critics placed the President in the role of Scapegoat-in-Chief. In 2001, it literally took months to place the blame squarely at the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This time, the sky had barely cleared before the carping began.

We have learned that some mayors and governors are simply people who fill ceremonial positions, like the King and Queen of Mardi Gras parades, and should not be expected to implement the plans they made for such a disaster or to recognize that disaster when it is clearly apparent to anyone with a television. Mayor Giuliani, Governor Pataki, the NYPD and FDNY saw themselves as first responders and within hours of the attacks they merged seamlessly with the well being of the citizens foremost in their mind. Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco are still in disagreement as to what should be done as to the evacuation of the remaining citizens of New Orleans more than 10 days after the hurricane, but they do seem to speak with one voice when it comes to shifting blame to the federal level.

Unfair you say? Certainly, the situation in New York was confined to a few city blocks while the catastrophe in New Orleans is city-wide. On the other hand, 9/11 was totally unforseen and it happened in a matter of minutes. Hurrincane Katrina was tracked for more than a week bearing down on a city that has been dreading just this scenario for generations. Is it unfair to expect more from the Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana than what we have seen?

The difference is leadership-New York had it and Louisiana doesn't. In the wake of 9/11, Giuliani and Pataki were inspiring. In the wake of Katrina, Nagin and Blanco are just depressing, and with each passing day they become more so.

New Orleans should be placed under federal authority, with overall suprvision given to General Honore. He's a native and, most importantly he's a leader. If Nagin and Blanco care more about their people than their political careers (which are pretty much over anyway, or should be) they would step aside and not only allow it, but embrace it. Perhaps Bernie Kerik, former New York Police Commissioner, could be brought in to build a police force in New Orleans that has the trust of the people. Perhaps Rudy Giuliani could be brought in as a consultant in an effort to reform a city government long known for its corruption, and maybe in the process he could teach them something about leadership.

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