Bush’s Last Katrina Lie

Jan 13, 2009 by

“Don’t tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed…”
— President George Bush’s last official lie about Katrina, Jan. 12, 2009.

In his final press conference, outgoing President George Bush reminds us why I once felt compelled to call him out as a lying sack of shit. *

When challenged on the slow response by the central government to the failure of the Federal levees after Hurricane Katrina sideswiped New Orleans, Bush responded, “there was [sic] 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.”

No one from New Orleans should be surprised that Bush should end his presidency on a lie about New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood, but we in New Orleans cannot let it go unanswered.

There was a prompt response to the flooding of New Orleans from one arm of the Federal government but it came unbidden.  Helicopters from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Louisiana National Guard flew into the city immediately behind the storm, when winds aloft were still blowing at 60 knots, according to the excellent summary of rescue efforts “Katrina: What Went Right” by retired Newsday reporter and volunteer fireman Lou Dolinar.  CBS News separately reported that the Coast Guard deployed in spite of the lack of any direction from FEMA or their commander in chief.

Dolinar’s online column clearly stands up on the side of the President’s version of events. He ends his article stating “help was rarely late, delayed, or inadequate.” While that may be true of the Coast Guard and other local or state agencies and volunteers, the same can’t be said of the official response of FEMA and the agencies the Feds actually coordinated.

From reports Dolinar collected, somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 people were rescued by some agency at some point during the week that began with 8-29. According to Dolinar’s excellent summary, the Coasties pulled between 3,000 and 5,000 people from rooftops between Monday and Wednesday, a time frame that we can reasonably call a prompt response. Ultimately the Coast Guard would claim 24,135 total “rescues” and another 9,400 evacuated from medical facilities but this covered the entire Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Louisiana and not the actual number of people air-lifted to safety in New Orleans.

More people were rescued by the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Service than by the Coast Guard.  The WL&F Service  chalked up 20,000 rescues using their own boats and volunteers from the “Cajun Navy,” people from around the region who saw what was happening and immediately hitched up shallow draft fishing and hunting boats and headed to the scene unbidden. More were hoisted to safety by National Guard choppers from Louisiana and other states, or taken away in boats from other agencies like the Lafayette, La. office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

With the exception of the Coast Guard, acting in its normal capacity under extraordinary circumstances, Bush has it flatly wrong. Worse, tries to hide behind behind the brave efforts of the Coast Guard and other non-Federal rescuers  the inadequacy of the response of FEMA on his watch. While Bush cut birthday cake with Sen. John McCain and cut brush on his ranch, others stepped in where the lead federal agency–FEMA–failed.

Outside of search-and-rescue, the coordinated Federal response was tardy.  Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared an emergency and requested Federal assistance the prior week, but the first federal “aid” to reach 30,000 people trapped at the New Orleans Superdome and 25,000 more and the Morial Convention Center did not arrive until Thursday, in the form of National Guardsmen to “restore order”. It wasn’t until Lt. Gen. Russell Honore’ arrived on site on Thursday, Sept. 1 and famously told the Guardsmen at the Convention Center to lower their riffles that real relief efforts began.

At that time, FEMA’s leadership claims to have been unaware of the 25,000 people at the Convention Center even as they were shown repeatedly on national television. Food and water only began to arrive for almost 50,000 survivors in the downtown area on Friday, Sept. 2, four days after the storm. Even by the emergency plan standard of a 72 hour response  endorsed by FEMA,  it was already a day late. For those who were forced to wade or swim out of their homes with no supplies in hand (under the approved emergency plan, people “evacuating in place” were responsible for their own 72 hours supplies), it was late enough to leave the street in front of the Convention Center littered with the dead.

Anyone who watched closely is painfully aware how slow and disorganized the response to the Federal flood was, at every level of government. The outgoing President has demonstrated once again he is the least lucid chief executive since George III of England.

Oh, he also mentioned the $121 Billion.  Don’t get me started on that again. Or that other Mark. And what’s with the additional $11 Billion? You know, for a Harvard M.B.A. the guy’s not very good with numbers.

You can tell people about $110 Billion or $121 Billion all you want George. We know it didn’t get down here into the hands of people who need it, except for the $21 Billion or more in Federal flood insurance payments you owed us. And we know at least $40 Billion went into things like debris removal to politically connected vendors at rates that shocked emergency management officials from Florida, who know a thing or two about hurricane recovery.

A liar and a thief: that is how George W. Bush will be remembered by history.

— Mark Folse (Wet Bank Guy), Toulouse Street – Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans

* Funny, that old post doesn’t come up until the bottom of the second page of a Google search on “Bush” and “lying sack of shit”.

What other NOLA Bloggers and Friends are saying about Bush’s farewell falsehood:

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