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Are the feds out of touch?
(Published September 5, 2005)
As night fell over the nation's capital Sept. 2, while thousands of stranded Americans desperately clung to life on rooftops and amid filth elsewhere in flood-ravaged New Orleans, a huge fireworks display exploded above the National Mall.
The pyrotechnics capped the Defense Department's 60th anniversary celebration of the end of World War II, one of America's proudest moments.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, as the federal government partied, D.C. City Councilman David Catania and D.C. Emergency Management Agency Director Barbara Childs-Pair were marshaling dozens of volunteers and D.C. government workers in front of the D.C. Armory as they readied 10 tour buses for a humanitarian mission to offer refuge here to 400 victims of Hurricane Katrina's wrath.
Earlier in the day, President Bush toured the devastated Gulf Coast and talked about stopping looters and rebuilding the Mississippi River's most important port town as thousands of hospital patients remained trapped in crippled New Orleans hospitals and rescuers dodged dead bodies floating in the streets while they searched to aid those still living.
As the nation's greatest natural disaster continued to worsen, and international offers of aid flowed in, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was spotted shopping for fancy shoes on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and Vice President Richard Cheney was reportedly vacationing in Wyoming. Nearly a week after disaster struck, the vice president of the United States remained out of sight, rather than publicly turning his attention to a national crisis.
Where is the vice president? Is he incapacitated?
Meanwhile, as rescues continued six days after the hurricane hit shore, federal officials began trying to deflect blame for their incompetently lame emergency response and utter lack of coordination onto the victims – incomprehensibly and inexcusably asserting that overburdened local officials who pleaded for federal help should have done more to aid themselves. Notably, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was still interviewing job applicants in suburban Washington on Sept. 2 to set up an emergency aid call-in center.
Have members of the Bush administration no shame? Clearly, federal officials are failing to grasp the gravity and the enormity of the catastrophe that has struck the South, as well as the far-reaching and long-lasting impact this disaster will have on all Americans' lives. Gas and oil supplies are hardly the only major problems. The effects of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, pale in comparison.
Many Americans, especially those with friends and family along the devastated coast, aren't very proud of their country right now. Ironically, the much-maligned D.C. government's quickly coordinated effort to offer aid – which it has no legal obligation to provide – should be a lesson to paternalistic federal officials who often meddle in local D.C. affairs that second-class citizens in the nation's capital deserve first-class respect.
Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator