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September 02, 2005

would rudy do?

Robert N. Going writes that New Orleans and Louisiana have a leadership vacuum and what they need is Rudy Guiliani. A reader of his blog comments:

I am a resident of lower Manhattan and a witness to the events of 9/11 and as a Red Cross volunteer for 2.5 months at ground zero (where I met and had the privilege of working with Bob)I cannot agree that there is a correspondence to the two responses...[Rudy] presided over a much small disaster (emotions and politics aside), and in a city that was rich with resources and, for the most part, functioning. We had communications (my phone service and internet stayed up even though my central office was in the affected area), open transportation (a lot of public transit was running, albeit on a limited scale, by the night of 9/11). We also had a ready supply of talented construction labor, engineers, the largest police force in the world, a devastated but functioning fire dept. and countless other agencies and professionals. We had power, running water, and most services, except in the immediate area. And, even with that, the roads there were basically open and available to bring in machinery and supplies... I remember seeing the huge amounts of aid piled up by 9/12, and not only did we have space to store it, but the roads were open to deliver it, and to deliver personel to manage and distribute it. Katrina has devastated 3 states. NO is wiped out, with 80% under water, no electric, no communications of any sort (I understand all the emergency personel are sharing one police frequency, and many of them can't get their walkie-talkie batteries charged). Roads and infrastructure are wiped out, there are no supplies, no water, no sanitation. It's summer, hot, humid and rain has started...What could we expect from our government, after all the billions of post 9/11 spending, if we had another major attack, such as a dirty bomb, in my fair city? What if we didn't have open roads, utilities, personnel? I suspect, despite my knowing how New Yorkers react during crises, that we would be very much like NO, Rudy or no Rudy.

There's no question that the scale is different. Both were terrible, but Katrina is most definitely worse. But I think RNG's point is that however bad it is in NO, they've got to have real leadership now, or things will continue to spiral out of control and get worse.

It doesn't help to have the governor weeping and the mayor "sending out an urgent SOS." Notice that two days ago they were reassuring Louisianians "we will recover, we will rebuild." Now they are shrinking from the fray, and their entire leadership stucture is shrinking with them, right down to the patrolman who turns in his badge or simply doesn't show up for duty.

One of their critical failures was the decision (and it most definitely was a decision) to ignore the looting and focus on search and rescue. They misinterpreted that situation as a simple matter of saving lives vs. saving property. They dropped the ball: above all else you save order, or both lives and property will be lost in terrible quantity. Two days ago they looked the other way as looters made off with armloads of Levis. Today that license is returned to bite them in the dungarees.

Having given anarchy its place in the corner yesterday, today the city and state officials of New Orleans and Louisiana find themselves being pushed into a corner, with greater and more tragic loss of human life looming on the horizon. What should have been an orderly evacuation of the Superdome and convention center is turning rapidly into something more akin to a prison riot.

The Big Easy is quickly passing the point where a Rudy Giuliani could help. Soon what they will need is a Wyatt Earp.

Hat tip to The Dawn Patrol who featured Going's post. Furthermore a backstep: I inadvertently (or subconsciously?) chose the same headline Dawn used, but have since revised it to the derivative one you see above.

Posted by joel at September 2, 2005 01:36 AM

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