Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Role of the President

Hurricane Katrina has brought back to our minds an important question: What exactly is the job of the President in the middle of a national catastrophe?

During 9/11, the President was an encourager and a symbol of the strength of America - of a strong response and a strong spirit.

However, what was his practical role? I don't know that I could, off the top of my head, quantify what exactly the President did to relieve the crisis at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. I'm sure there was a lot of delegation but if it had gone horribly, it would have been on his head. As it worked out, it was a high-moment of his presidency. It must be said though, that part of that high moment came from the fact that we as a nation were banded together against a common enemy - we don't have that now. There is no "evil" against which to direct our anger and frustration and since I would guess that the people in New Orleans (and many people nationwide, for that matter) don't know the name "Mike Brown" or "Lt. Gen. Honore" or maybe even "Gov. Blanco," the President takes the fall.

And, for the most part, he should be held responsible and I would guess that he would not shirk that responsibility. However, the President (and all American citizens) must be able to depend on our individual states' first responders. We cannot count on the federal government for the easement of all our pain and suffering. All states must consider their disaster relief plans on an individual basis. Though I would say it may indeed be the President's job to urge the states to do so.

So, I think Mark was on the right track earlier - unfortunate as it may be for the President. This Rich Lowry article runs along the same lines:
Law enforcement, of course, is primarily a state and local responsibility, but in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, people look to the federal government and the president to solve any problem on their TV screens. Already the question is being asked if the feds could have jumped in sooner (the National Guard is now arriving in force).

But...could there be other things to consider? As pertains to the pre-hurricane preparation, Powerline reports thatthe answer is yes:
The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.

So, for all the criticism about the President's preparedness efforts he did at least two things: asking for mandatory evacuation of New Orleans and declaring diaster areas ahead of time. The first stressed the seriousness of the storm to those who otherwise may have tried to ride it out. The second allowed the process of calling up troops and allocating funds to begin earlier than it would have.

The President has saved lives. Himself. I of course don't know who actually is to blame for the fact that all that has not gone as well as it should. I know the President will deservedly take some of the blame. But I also know that he himself acted in such a way as to save thousands of lives and alleviate the current crisis in New Orleans.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out)

Technorati Tag: