It has been a week since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, leveled New Orleans and left hundreds of thousands of Americans homeless. We saw the best of America during that time--millions of people stepped forward to offer help. Meanwhile, the Bush administration failed at their most important job: keeping America safe. The federal effort was too little, too late and it is now becoming obvious that hundreds or even thousands of people died as a result.
Then, starting Friday, in a Karl Rove-led campaign, the White House started to blame state and local officials and even the victims who were stranded without transportation when the Hurricane arrived. Sign our petition demanding that the Bush administration stop blaming victims, including state and local officials, and focus on helping them.
We'll begin to deliver the earliest signatures to the White House tomorrow, Thursday, when a delegation of MoveOn members from New Orleans, who are now homeless and will come to Washington and join other MoveOn members outside the White House at a petition delivery and protest. The petition is one important way to demonstrate that the public wants more action to help hurricane victims and is getting angry about this blame-shifting game the Bush administration is playing.
It is important that the Bush administration not get away with shifting their responsibility to local officials. Here is what actually happened.
Friday, Aug. 26: Gov. Kathleen Blanco declares a state of emergency in Louisiana and requests troop assistance.
Saturday, Aug. 27: Gov. Blanco asks for federal state of emergency. A federal emergency is declared giving federal officials the authority to get involved.
Sunday, Aug. 28: Mayor Ray Nagin orders mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. President Bush warned of Levee failure by National Hurricane Center. National Weather Service predicts area will be "uninhabitable" after Hurricane arrives. First reports of water toppling over the levee appear in local paper.
Monday, Aug. 29: Levee breaches and New Orleans begins to fill with water, Bush travels to Arizona and California to discuss Medicare. FEMA chief finally responds to federal emergency, dispatching employees but giving them two days to arrive on site.
Tuesday, Aug. 30: Mass looting reported, security shortage cited in New Orleans. Pentagon says that local authorities have adequate National Guard units to handle hurricane needs despite governor's earlier request. Bush returns to Crawford for final day of vacation. TV coverage is around-the-clock Hurricane news.
Wednesday, Aug. 31: Tens of thousands trapped in New Orleans including at Convention Center and Superdome in "medieval" conditions. President Bush finally returns to Washington to establish a task force to coordinate federal response. Local authorities run out of food and water supplies.
Thursday, Sept. 1: New Orleans descends into anarchy. New Orleans Mayor issues a "Desperate SOS" to federal government. Bush claims nobody predicted the breach of the levees despite multiple warnings and his earlier briefing. Friday, Sept. 2: Karl Rove begins Bush administration campaign to blame state and local officials--despite their repeated requests for help. Bush stages a photo-op--diverting Coast Guard helicopters and crew to act as backdrop for cameras. Levee repair work orchestrated for president's visit and White House press corps.
Saturday, Sept. 3: Bush blames state and local officials. Senior administration official (possibly Rove) caught in a lie claiming Gov. Blanco had not declared a state of emergency or asked for help.
Monday, Sept. 5: New Orleans officials begin to collect their dead.
(Adapted from: Katrina Timeline,
Those are the facts. State and local officials BEGGED for help as people in their city suffered. The Bush administration didn't get the job done and when their failure became an embarrassment they attacked those asking for help.
The New York Times reported on Friday that Karl Rove and White House communications director Dan Bartlett "rolled out a plan...to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina." The core of the strategy is "to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana."
This is the same pattern of smearing that the Bush political machine has used for a decade. John McCain and John Kerry had their war records smeared. The CIA cover of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife was blown after he criticized the Bush Iraq policy. Now, Hurricane victims are attacked when the Bush administration failed to do their duty to help them.
It isn't just the Bush administration. Republican Senator Rick Santorum blamed victims in a TV interview and House Speaker Dennis Hastert suggested New Orleans should not be rebuilt.
We can't let them get away with this. Please sign our petition today and do your part.
This is just the first step. We need to continue to help those in need directly and make sure our government does their job. There will be a time to figure out who specifically to blame and what to change. In the meantime, the Bush administration needs to get to work helping those in need.
Thanks for all you do,
--Tom, Tanya, Joan, Jennifer and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
Wednesday, September 7th, 2005
P.S. Check out these links for more on the Hurricane relief efforts.
Katrina Timeline, ThinkProgress.org
Editorial: No time for turf wars. The Times-Picayune, September 7, 2005.
Editorial blasts federal response. CNN, September 4, 2005.
The big disconnect on New Orleans. CNN, September 2, 2005.
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