Claim: Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco refused President Bush’s pleas to declare an emergency before Hurricane Katrina struck.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2005]
This is a post from a fellow over in Merritt Is, FL, a reporter who’s been researching what went on before the storm hit:
I think all of Nagin’s pomp and posturing is going to bite him hard in the near future as the lies and distortions of his interviews are coming to light.
On Friday night before the storm hit Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center took the unprecedented action of calling Nagin and Blanco personally to plead with them to begin MANDATORY evacuation of NO and they said they’d take it under consideration. This was after the NOAA buoy
President Bush spent Friday afternoon and evening in meetings with his advisors and administrators drafting all of the paperwork required for a state to request federal assistance (and not be in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act or having to enact the Insurgency Act). Just before midnight Friday evening the President called Governor Blanco and pleaded with her to sign the request papers so the federal government and the military could legally begin mobilization and call up. He was told that they didn’t think it necessary for the federal government to be involved yet. After the President’s final call to the governor she held meetings with her staff to discuss the political ramifications of bringing federal forces. It was decided that if they allowed federal assistance it would make it look as if they had failed so it was agreed upon that the feds would not be invited in.
Saturday before the storm hit the President again called Blanco and Nagin requesting they please sign the papers requesting federal assistance, that they declare the state an emergency area, and begin mandatory evacuation. After a personal plea from the President Nagin agreed to order an evacuation, but it would not be a full mandatory evacuation, and the governor still refused to sign the papers requesting and authorizing federal action. In frustration the President declared the area a national disaster area before the state of Louisiana did so he could legally begin some advanced preparations. Rumor has it that the President’s legal advisers were looking into the ramifications of using the insurgency act to bypass the Constitutional requirement that a state request federal aid before the federal government can move into state with troops – but that had not been done since 1906 and the Constitutionality of it was called into question to use before the disaster.
Throw in that over half the federal aid of the past decade to NO for levee construction, maintenance, and repair was diverted to fund a marina and support the gambling ships. Toss in the investigation that will look into why the emergency preparedness plan submitted to the federal government for funding and published on the city’s web site was never implemented and in fact may have been bogus for the purpose of gaining additional federal funding as we now learn that the organizations identified in the plan were never contacted or coordinating into any planning – though the document implies that they were.
The suffering people of NO need to be asking some hard questions as do we all, but they better start with why Blanco refused to even sign the multi-state mutual aid pack activation documents until Wednesday which further delayed the legal deployment of National Guard from adjoining states. Or maybe ask why Nagin keeps harping that the President should have commandeered
This is a sad time for all of us to see that a major city has all but been destroyed and thousands of people have died with hundreds of thousands more suffering, but it’s certainly not a time for people to be pointing fingers and trying to find a bigger dog to blame for local corruption and incompetence. Pray to God for the survivors that they can start their lives anew as fast as possible and we learn from all the mistakes to avoid them in the future.
Origins: Sorting out who should have done what, and when, to head off the disaster in New Orleans produced by Hurricane Katrina will undoubtedly take a very long time (and the issue may never ultimately be resolved). A preliminary timeline doesn’t seem to support the sequence of events claimed in the article quoted above, however:
On Friday night before the storm hit Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center took the unprecedented action of calling Nagin and Blanco personally to plead with them to begin MANDATORY evacuation of NO and they said they’d take it under consideration.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center contacted government officials in Louisiana and Mississippi on Saturday night
(27 August), not Friday night:
On Saturday night, Mayfield was so worried about Hurricane Katrina that he called the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi and the mayor of New Orleans. On Sunday, he even talked about the force of Katrina during a video conference call to President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
In frustration the President declared the area a national disaster area before the state of Louisiana did so he could legally begin some advanced preparations.
The claim that “the President declared the area a national disaster area before the state of Louisiana did” appears to be based on an erroneous statement made by an unnamed Bush administration official, as reported in the Washington Post (emphasis ours):
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday
[26 August],the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state’s emergency operations center said Saturday.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. “Quite frankly, if they’d been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals,” said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.
A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.
Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday [31 August], three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.
In fact, Governo Blanco had already declared a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana eight days earlier
(26 August).The Washington Post later issued a correction to their article, noting that “A Sept. 4article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. KathleenBabineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.”
Saturday before the storm hit the President again called Blanco and Nagin requesting they please sign the papers requesting federal assistance, that they declare the state an emergency area, and begin mandatory evacuation. After a personal plea from the President Nagin agreed to order an evacuation, but it would not be a full mandatory evacuation, and the governor still refused to sign the papers requesting and authorizing federal action
(27 August),Governor Blanco did indeed issue a letter requesting that President Bush “declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina.” The White House responded to Governor Blanco’s request that same day (Saturday) by declaring the emergency and authorizing FEMA “to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.”
Last updated: 9 September 2005