Rich Galen

Note: Before we begin, I want to note the release of Fox News reporter Steve Centanni by some religious zealots in Gaza. I have known Steve for a number of years. He has made a career of going to dangerous places to try and get to the heart of the crucial stories of our age.

We should all say a prayer of thanks that Steve and his cameraman were released unharmed.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is a goofball. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is incompetent. Former FEMA director Michael Brown has an ego the size of a category 5 hurricane.

In a nutshell (emphasis on the first syllable) you have the leaders on the ground of the three levels of government who were involved in the preparations for, and the actions following, the landfall of Hurricane Katrina.

As it turned out there was not a competent person among the three of them.

You may remember that I went down to the region shortly after the hurricane hit, after the levies failed and after it became clear it was going to be a horror.

It is in the nature of the news business - and in the nature of human beings - that we love to hear bad news about other people. In real live we call this: Gossip.

Don't believe me? Why do you think 30-second negative political ads are so effective? They move votes because we love gossip. Oh. YOU don't love gossip, but everyone else in your office does.

The good guys in all this were the rank-and-file FEMA guys (see "Marty and Joe" from September, 2005), the National Health Service folks, and the Coast Guard.

One Guardian told me that in a "normal" disaster you show up with trucks loaded with food and supplies, and you show up with buses to take the stranded to safety - 30 to 45 at a time.

But in this case, because the city was under water, it became an air-sea rescue operation. Instead of moving 45 people at time, the Coast Guard helicopters could airlift two or three. "In the best of circumstances," I was told, "we're six percent - SIX percent - as efficient as we would be if we could get land vehicles in there."

When reporters wanted to hitch rides on Coast Guard helicopters (one of the The Lad's responsibilities, by the way) only one TV crew could go. The Coast Guard insisted that space be reserved in case they found someone stranded on a roof top.

The Coast Guard. The National Health Service. Rank-and-file FEMA folks. Heroes.

Then there were the political people: Dopes.

Governor Blanco spent a significant amount of her time, in essence, sitting in a corner her arms wrapped around her, rocking back and forth. She refused to allow the National Guard to be nationalized to join the troops commanded by Lt. Gen. Russell Honore.

Ray Nagin not only didn't direct rescue and recovery operations, he was found hiding out in the Hyatt, fearful that his constituents, the residents of New Orleans, would storm the place and lynch him.

"Brownie," who had already decided he was leaving FEMA to go into the private sector, was more worried about how his performance would influence the job offers he'd already received than how his agency was performing.

I did Hannity & Colmes on Friday night to discuss Mayor Nagin's stupid crack that the lack of progress in New Orleans was no different than the "hole in the ground" which is how he described the remnants of the attack on the World Trade Center buildings.

I said that everyone knows Nagin is a dope. But when he says things like that - and says things like New Orleans continuing to be a "chocolate city" - the rest of the country thinks he is not a serious guy and think that enough money has been spent on rebuilding a city which (a) has done nothing to help itself at all and (b) is being run by people who are goofballs.

Katrina demonstrated the best and worst in people. Unfortunately, the worst were the people in charge.

The best were the people who's names we will never know.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.