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March 06, 2007

Gingrich blames "lack of citizenship" for Katrina deaths

The CPAC conference proclaims itself the "intellectual cornerstone of our modern conservative movement."

Here's what Newt Gingrich self-proclaimed student of history told CPAC about Hurricane Katrina.

How can you have the mess we have in New Orleans, and not have had deep investigations of the federal government, the state government, the city government, and the failure of citizenship in the Ninth Ward, where 22,000 people were so uneducated and so unprepared, they literally couldn't get out of the way of a hurricane. [Audio]

Facing South takes Newt to task for his racist revisionism and sets the record straight.


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I blame a lack of decency for Gingrich's judgment.
But it does show that our sytemic failure to cope with Katrina remains painful -- hence the need to explain the pain away. Why do we blame the victim? If she was in some way blameworthy for what befell her, it can't be that wrong -- really it was only just or reasonable, so we can take comfort. The alternative is ire and indignation at FEMA, the president, and good citizens like Dr. Gingrich.

What did you expect from a Gin-Grinch?

I don't know if you remember Taz from Loaded Mouth. The blog is defunct now. He is blogging at Liberal Avenger these days. He left this comment about CPAC at my blog. He attended the event.

Actually, Romney got the most first place votes in the CPAC07 straw poll, but the poll had a semi-Instant Runoff Voting quality to it where they asked particpants to vote by ranking their first and second choice for preisdent. When these votes were combined, Rudy came out the victor with 34%, followed by Romney and Newt Gingrich, both with 30%. I was on location at CPAC in DC when the results were annouced and I'm taking all of this from my notes, so I know it's accurate. Leave it to the MSM to screw up simple reporting jobs like this...

Coulter's gay bashing comment and Newt's "uneducated and so unprepared" diss are what the CPAC audience want to hear. Newt's showing in the straw poll will encourage him to run. I'm agnostic, but God have mercy if he does.

You guys might be reading a little too much into that. I think what he meant by uneducated and unprepared was that they were uneducated and unprepared for the hurricane. Yeah, it doesn't make any more sense, but still. Then on the other hand, maybe not. Who freaking knows, man. I'm an atheist, but I thank God every day that Gingrich slips up and demonstrates just how much he's really in league with Satan.

You guys might be reading a little too much into that.

I use my tea leaves and magic eightball before I issue a statement on Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich/Coulter in '08!

As I mentioned in the my last comment on Hurricane Katrina…

“I attended my undergrad down in New Orleans. My heart weeps for that (once?) so great & unique of American cities. It’s fair to point out… while down there, (years before this ever occurred) all the elite circles I traveled in had pointed out to me how the eventuality (of a Hurricane Katrina) was a forgone conclusion. They remarked how the city was simply living on borrowed time. How the levee system could never stand up to “the big one”. How the city government and citizenry had lived through so many “close –calls” that when the “big –one” hit they would never be adequately prepared. (And how inept & corrupt local government was not up to the task of preparing) Other remarks I recall included the statement – “a knowledgeable camper wouldn’t pitch a tent here”, “we’ve built a city.”

Newt Gingrich spent years in New Orleans as a History Professor at Tulane University. Anyone who has spent time in that city can attest to the appalling lack of leadership within and from above concerning the poor especially. Perhaps it’s a legacy of Slavery and paternalism, racism and neglect. (certainly in part) Nevertheless Gingrich’s words were (as often) spot on target. I challenge anyone who was a native or spent any time in Louisiana to NOT predominately blame the local politics/culture for what inevitably occurred.
Everyone new it would happen (I mean everyone, and exactly like it went down…exactly) I remember discussing with a judge I worked for down there the prospect of using the city’s school bus fleer to get people out. He just shook his head… You could see it ALL coming.
(something non-locals miss about the story)

You guys might be reading a little too much into that. I think what he meant by uneducated and unprepared was that they were uneducated and unprepared for the hurricane.

Even if they were, what of it? 22,000 people being educated and prepared wouldn't have stopped the levee from breaching because of years of neglect from the Army Corps and the federal government. 22,000 people being educated and prepared wouldn't have magically solved the problem of lack of transportation and lack of somewhere to go. Even the people who were "educated and prepared" lost their homes or at the very least had flood damage.

Disaster planning is one of those things that has to be conducted on a government level. And when you have incompetent people running the government, you're going to have very bad outcomes.

Gingrich is trying to place the blame on the individuals who didn't get out because they had nowhere to go and no way to get there. He wants to blame the people who are unhappy about having to live in FEMA trailers 18 months after the storm. What he doesn't want to do is blame the government of George Bush, which had the power and the responsibility and the warning to take the lead in managing the disaster competently. And it's not like they didn't know what might happen if a Category 5 hit the city; they had the eerily prescient Hurricane Pam simulation to go by.

I remember discussing with a judge I worked for down there the prospect of using the city’s school bus fleer to get people out.

And right on cue, someone brings up the buses. And it's Fitz! What a surprise.

Thing is zuzu I did discuss that very thing YEARS before it happened..

All you had to do is live down there and every season this eventuality could have occurred the same way..

Not a single surprise for those in the know.

Knowing that it might happen does not mean the ability to have done anything about it.

Again, the inaction of higher-ups doomed the city. Because while they survived the storm itself, federal government neglect of the maintenance and repair of the levees sealed the city's fate. And criminal ineptness made the aftermath much, much worse than it had to be.

I challenge anyone who was a native or spent any time in Louisiana to NOT predominately blame the local politics/culture for what inevitably occurred.

But that's not who Gingrich is blaming. He's blaming the victims for their lack of "citizenship." Unless you're trying to claim that he's as mealymouthed as Bush and said "citizenship" when he really meant "government."

Worth repeating from zuzu:

>Disaster planning is one of those things that has to be conducted on a government level. And when you have incompetent people running the government, you're going to have very bad outcomes.

Clinton's FEMA's response to the Northridge earthquake should be placed side by side with Bush's FEMA's response--and Bush's response--to Katrina.

And Gingrich putting this into a sound bite for us is a gift wrapped in a bow for the Democrats, presuming he makes it onto a viable ticket. Keep going, GOP--you sling mud at yourselves better than we ever could.

I said: You guys might be reading a little too much into that.

Actually, I just saw the whole speech and I take that back. He thinks the people were too dumb to "get out of the way of a hurricane", and he blames that on the corruption of their local government.

zuzu said: Even if they were, what of it? 22,000 people being educated and prepared wouldn't have stopped the levee from breaching because of years of neglect from the Army Corps and the federal government. 22,000 people being educated and prepared wouldn't have magically solved the problem of lack of transportation and lack of somewhere to go. Even the people who were "educated and prepared" lost their homes or at the very least had flood damage.

Well, then I guess he must not be very bright then. Probably due to corruption. :-)

'But that's not who Gingrich is blaming. He's blaming the victims for their lack of "citizenship." Unless you're trying to claim that he's as mealy-mouthed as Bush and said "citizenship" when he really meant "government."

Look kids... I said (Gingrich noted) local politics & culture produced this disaster (predominantly)

There is a famous drink down there called the "hurricane'. Invented in a bar during a hurricane by people who "ride it out" rather than leaving.

Every season produced the possibility of a big one hitting the city and producing the result we saw.

The mere existence of a plan to evacuate, or a culture of citizenship that rallied around getting people out in a serious way was lacking.


Look, Fitz, I know I've been harsh with you in the past, but this time it's more just a matter of focus. No one denies your point that "local politics and culture" had something to do with the post-Katrina disaster. They're just saying that you're illegitimately focusing on the local and thereby avoiding an examination of the local in context of needed regional, state, and federal co-ordination.

In other words, the blame game cannot be limited to "local politics and culture." Suppose Nagin had had the buses ready to go. Where were the people going to go to? You think Kip "New Orleans thugs" Holden would just open BR up to the buses? You think people just made up the Gretna bridge incident?

excellent point, John.

i could have not have put my own thoughts on this subject in a more eloquent fashion.

it is my belief that we share many similar thought processes.

what do you think, fitz?

I think that if you want to talk about the Army Corp of Engineers being a focal point of contention, you must also talk about the levee boards being corrupt and stymied bureaucracies.

I think that if any Mayor would of had the considerable bus fleet up and ready to go, it would have been a plan in place years before Katrina.

Since Hurricanes are unpredictable weather phenomena a large and expensive evacuation exercise would have taken place during a season when no significant damage took place. That would have been the end of that exercise in organized evacuation efforts.

No doubt any city wants a mass migration of the 9th ward into its juristiction (much less for no ultimate reason each season)...

I think Gretna is bound to be Gretna (if memory serves)

What I cant get over is how predictable (and predicted) this entire even ultimately was.

That’s what stymies me to the Monday morning quarter backing. Most of this could have been addressed by a multiple of agencies & efforts. The folks on the ground never really addressed the impeding disaster

have you checked the employment adverts for bus drivers and paid OTR workers?

what are those jobs paying?

now, if you can't afford a car...you may not need a driver license...meaning...you can't learn to drive...thus getting that nice OTR worker job.

the economics of scale are at work here...in addition to bustling hypocrisy at the bureaucratic level.

phrases every CEO & CFO & Upper Layer Manager need to understand in today's society:

"you get back what you pay out..." & "pay a little, get a little" & "free isn't always free" & "minimum is not a premium opportunity for long term capital goals, if that's all you're willing to pay out" & "historical perspectives" & "corporations are made by people, for people to collectively advance capital gains for short term & long term societal improvement" & "corporate intent" & "how to sell the sizzle, not necessarily the steak"

if you aren't paying your workers enough to live & interact in local society...what happens?

where is the progress to a greater society that can react to disaster & keep people safe from harm as much as possible given today's advancements in tech & interaction?

how do we balance all of these questions and concerns in a way that is fair and balanced?

i would like to hear more discussion on this aspect of the Katrina disaster & the pre-disaster that helped make it into such a total nightmare.

rebuilding New Orleans & the Gulf Coast as a whole to be the great city & region that it is, and deserves to be should be our priority moving forward.

dwelling on bus routes and who did this and that is relevant somewhat, but ultimately it is going to take a larger more vibrant movement of people & resources to make things right & more adaptable to future problems.

there will always be another unplanned disaster in our future, but we are capable of thinking critically.

are we not?

Fitz said:

"I challenge anyone who was a native or spent any time in Louisiana to NOT predominately blame the local politics/culture for what inevitably occurred."

As a native and resident of the Pelican State, where the azaleas are in full firecracker riot outside my window, I predominately blame our airhead president who played air guitar in San Diego while New Orleans drowned. If character is destiny, maybe it was inevitable for that fool from the prevous day's fundraiser at the Pueblo El Mirage Resort and Country Club in Arizona to act that way.
Challenge schmallenge.

Hey Fitz, I think you missed this excellent post, directed at you from John. At least, you completely glossed over the fact that John was mentioning that you're completely glossing over the Federal government's (that is, Bush's government's) huge part in neglectfully causing the worst of this disaster.

Look, Fitz, I know I've been harsh with you in the past, but this time it's more just a matter of focus. No one denies your point that "local politics and culture" had something to do with the post-Katrina disaster. They're just saying that you're illegitimately focusing on the local and thereby avoiding an examination of the local in context of needed regional, state, and federal co-ordination.

In other words, the blame game cannot be limited to "local politics and culture." Suppose Nagin had had the buses ready to go. Where were the people going to go to? You think Kip "New Orleans thugs" Holden would just open BR up to the buses? You think people just made up the Gretna bridge incident?

Posted by: John Protevi

We agree, of course, that local and gubernatorial incompetence were equal to the Presidential* incompetence, but presidential power is huge, and could have made a difference, had Bush applied it thoughtfully here. I know that was probably inadvertently forgetful on your part, but I'm sure you wouldn't want it to seem like you were excusing Bush at any cost, while we admit local Democratic incompetence and neglect, or anything like that.

1984 & John

I had read Johns Post and my following post was a (if not direct) response.

I don’t really look at it as a partisan issue. They tell me FEMA was run excellently under Clinton, I will concede such - for what’s it worth. Certainly his handling of the situation did not accrue to him politically. Was his handling particularly egregious and incompetent

My main point in posting was to bring in the local knowledge I share above about the situation. This information/understanding is simply not reported on, or well represented in peoples minds. Remember, I am a conservative. I believe in both local control & responsibility. We devolve power down to the most immediate level precisely because we believe that’s were responsibility is properly & most effectively exercised. So my general worldview tends to focus on the local regardless of partisan affiliation.

I would appreciate an analysis of Bush Administration’s handling of this disaster. One could easily concede every point I have made concerning the city & state as well as cultural aspects that contributed to this foreseeable disaster (I forgot to mention “La Bon Ton Roule’ – Jonn? French?) AND STILL give this administration a failing grade (or even criminal ineptitude) concerning its considerable responsibility in RESPONDING to the disaster.

I have no particular reason (other than partisan hackery) to dismiss his ineptitude if that’s what it was. Even now I am sure there are balanced critiques of the Feds handling of the crises that don’t conflate local with national responsibility.

It has been mentioned that this was greatest natural disaster in American history (floods tend to be) As such it will remain a case study in what to do & not to do. Much like 9/11, leadership is judged according to the response to such events. Such critiques are fair & necessary.

I think that if any Mayor would of had the considerable bus fleet up and ready to go, it would have been a plan in place years before Katrina.

Since Hurricanes are unpredictable weather phenomena a large and expensive evacuation exercise would have taken place during a season when no significant damage took place. That would have been the end of that exercise in organized evacuation efforts.

No doubt any city wants a mass migration of the 9th ward into its juristiction (much less for no ultimate reason each season)...

Well, that's mighty white of you.

Fitz, I don't know how to explain this to you in words small enough for you to understand, but evacuations are costly and disruptive and require a level of coordination and coercion that most city governments just don't have. Even the NYPD, with 40,000 officers, couldn't empty out parts of New York without assistance from the National Guard.

Remember the National Guard? Those people who are supposed to defend the nation from invasion and assist in emergencies and disasters?

You seem to think that the City of New Orleans failed somehow in not having practice hurricane drills. You really, really don't understand the limits of municipal power. No mayor has the power to just empty out an entire city on a whim.

But, for shits and giggles, let's say that the mayor somehow found enough money and drivers and buses and a place to put everyone and their uncle who couldn't get out. Let's say that the city was empty.

THE CITY WOULD STILL HAVE BEEN DESTROYED. And it wouldn't have been due to the wind or the rain, but due to the BREACH IN THE LEVEE.

Oh, also?

(I forgot to mention “La Bon Ton Roule’ – Jonn? French?)

Le bon temps roulez.

I would appreciate an analysis of Bush Administration’s handling of this disaster.

Fitz, today is March 9, 2007, and you haven't yet read an analysis of the Bush Administration's handling of Katrina? Oh, my.

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