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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Woody BS: KatrinaGate (932* d) RE: BS: KatrinaGate... 22 Jun 06
.... Hurricane Katrina

Governor Blanco is still grappling with the massive damage to the State of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which struck Louisiana on August 29, 2005. Her response to the catastrophe has resulted in Time Magazine's labeling her a "failure"[1] in a section called "The Worst Governors in America." [2] Extensive and severe damage was caused by the Hurricane across the Gulf Coast region of the southeastern United States, including Louisiana's largest city, New Orleans, on August 29, 2005.

Actions in advance of Katrina

On August 27, 2005, Governor Blanco speaking on Hurricane Katrina told the media in Jefferson Parish "I believe we are prepared. That's the one thing that I've always been able to brag about."[3] Later that day she issued a request for federal assistance and US$9 million in aid to President George W. Bush, which stated, "...I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance, Individual and Household Program (IHP) assistance, Special Needs Program assistance, and debris removal." Also in the requesting letter, the governor stated: "In response to the situation I have taken appropriate action under State law and directed the execution of the State Emergency Plan on August 26, 2005 in accordance with Section 501 (a) of the Stafford Act. A State of Emergency has been issued for the State in order to support the evacuations of the coastal areas in accordance with our State Evacuation Plan and the remainder of the state to support the State Special Needs and Sheltering Plan."[4][5] [6]

FEMA, issued a statement dated August 27, that President Bush authorized the allocation of federal resources, "following a review of FEMA's analysis of the state's request for federal assistance." [7] A White House statement of the same date also acknowledges this authorization of aid by President Bush. [8] On August 28, Governor Blanco sent a letter to President Bush, which increased the amount of aid requested to US$130 million. [9] Time magazine has reported that on August 29, the day that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Governor Blanco could reach neither Bush or his chief of staff and had to leave a message pleading for help with a low-level adviser. [10]

On Aug. 28 Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff failed to reach Blanco by telephone. A 12:30 p.m. e-mail to aides from a Homeland Security official stated "Your assistance would be much appreciated,". Deputy Press Secretary Roderick Hawkins wrote in an e-mail at 1:59 p.m. to his boss, Denise Bottcher, "I think she's asleep now." At approximately 2:15 p.m. Hawkins e-mailed the official stating that "Governor Blanco is unavailable at the present time. . . . You may reach her at approximately 3 p.m." Later that day Chertoff and Blanco did talk via telephone. [11]

Actions following Katrina

On September 1, 2005, Governor Blanco authorized National Guard troops to "shoot and kill" rioters and looters, [12] which followed President Bush's statement that looters in New Orleans and elsewhere in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina should be treated with "zero tolerance" [13]. The attitude to looters, and the perception that police and national guard resources were diverted to deal with looters, were sources of controversy and criticism. Governor Blanco was also criticized for allegedly having only a minor subset of her available National Guard troops standing by on ready, and for not being able to provide relief supplies and standby medical or other first responder personnel to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for the victims of the hurricane. A Newsday article by Jim Pinkerton, for example, claims "The Louisiana Guard has about 11,000 members, of whom 3,000 are in Iraq. And yet, of the remaining 8,000 in the Pelican State, fewer than half were on duty the day Katrina struck." [14] Louisiana did indeed have only 3,500 ready out of 6,500 national guards available according to a different article in the Chicago Tribune; in comparison, the much harder-hit state of Mississippi had 850 guards on duty, and Alabama had 350 as of August 30. [15]

In addition, Governor Blanco had accepted an offer of National Guard reinforcements from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Although this agreement was made on August 28, the day before Katrina struck, the paperwork required to deploy troops did not arrive from the federal government until September 1. The specific cause of the delay is unclear. [16] An article in the Washington Post cites three state and federal officials as stating collectively that "Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until August 31." It also quotes one as saying erroneously that as of September 3, Governor Blanco had not declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. [17]

Controversy has continued to circle the issue of the National Guard. According to an article in Newsweek [18], President Bush and Governor Blanco met on Air Force One on Friday, September 2, 2005 while it sat on the tarmac at the New Orleans airport. Echoing requests submitted by President Bush to Governor Blanco in a memo prior to the meeting, Mayor Nagin suggested federalizing the National Guard to improve the command structure. According to both Sen. David Vitter, a Republican ally of Bush's, and Mayor Ray Nagin, the Democrat Mayor of New Orleans, Bush turned to Governor Blanco and said, "Well, what do you think of that, Governor?" Blanco told Bush, "I'd rather talk to you about that privately." To which Nagin responded, "Well, why don't you do that now?". Immediately following that private meeting, according to a September 7, 2005 Washington Times article [19], Mayor Nagin said that "He (Bush) called [Nagin] in that office, and he said, 'Mr. Mayor, I offered two options to the governor.' I was ready to move. The governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision."

Governor Blanco subsequently rejected the proposal. President Bush continued to press the offer so Governor Blanco rejected it in writing on September 6, citing the need for flexibility in National Guard operations, particularly the need for Guard in areas other than New Orleans where the military is not currently operating.[20] Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi reportedly declined a similar offer from the President. It has not previously been a policy during natural disasters to combine the command of National Guard and military operations under the authority of the President.[21] President Bush has the power to take command of National Guard brigades under the Insurrection Act without the agreement of a state Governor, but no President has done this since Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s and President Bush has so far also declined to do so. However, Governor Blanco and Major General Bennett Landreneau, commanding Louisiana's National Guard, have co-operated closely with Lieutenant General Russel Honore, commanding military operations under Joint Task Force Katrina....

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