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September 12, 2005

New Orleans' Naggin' Nagin meets Tim Russert (ouch)

I've noticed from the very beginning that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin seems much more adept at blaming other people than actually doing his job. Tim Russert, on Meet the Press, held Nagin feet to the fire regarding the stupid things he's said over the past few days. Take his accusations of racism...

MR. RUSSERT: You had said earlier that you didn't think that race was a factor in the preparation and evacuation, and yet you had given an interview to the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, and let me read it for you and our viewers.

"Definitely class, and the more I think about it, definitely race played into this. If it's race, fine, let's call a spade a spade, a diamond a diamond. We can never let this happen again. Even if you hate black people and you are in a leadership position, this did not help anybody."

Who in the leadership position hates black people?

MAYOR NAGIN: Well, you know, I don't know who hates black people, but I will just tell you this, that I think the imagery that came out across the nation portrayed that this was primarily poor black people that were affected. And I don't know if that affected the response or not. But I got really upset when I heard about some of our residents walking to one of the parish lines and were turned back by attack dogs and armed guys with machine guns. Then the secretary of Homeland Security came and he asked me to meet him at Zephyr Field, which is near the Saints' training facility. And when I walked over there, I just started to pay attention to things and I saw porterlets that we didn't have. I saw ice. To this day, Tim, no one has dropped one piece of ice in the city of New Orleans to give some people relief. I saw lights that we were begging for for the Superdome and for the Convention Center that made that a horrific environment. I saw all of that sitting on the ground and not moving to New Orleans. So someone has to explain that.

MR. RUSSERT: And you think those decisions were based on race?

MAYOR NAGIN: You know, I don't know, but I'm hearing all sorts of weird things right now, like, you know, they're going to build--what is it called?--a huge trailer park somewhere in the woods of mid- Louisiana and they're going to bring all the people back...

...or his constantly blaming both the state of Louisiana and the Federal government for the mistakes he made...

MR. RUSSERT: Many people point, Mr. Mayor, that on Friday before the hurricane, President Bush declared an impending disaster. And The Houston Chronicle wrote it this way. "[Mayor Nagin's] mandatory evacuation order was issued 20 hours before the storm struck the Louisiana coast, less than half the time researchers determined would be needed to get everyone out. City officials had 550 municipal buses and hundreds of additional school buses at their disposal but made no plans to use them to get people out of New Orleans before the storm, said Chester Wilmot, a civil engineering professor at Louisiana State University and an expert in transportation planning, who helped the city put together its evacuation plan." And we've all see this photograph of these submerged school buses. Why did you not declare, order, a mandatory evacuation on Friday, when the president declared an emergency, and have utilized those buses to get people out?

MAYOR NAGIN: You know, Tim, that's one of the things that will be debated. There has never been a catastrophe in the history of New Orleans like this. There has never been any Category 5 storm of this magnitude that has hit New Orleans directly. We did the things that we thought were best based upon the information that we had. Sure, here was lots of buses out there. But guess what? You can't find drivers that would stay behind with a Category 5 hurricane, you know, pending down on New Orleans. We barely got enough drivers to move people on Sunday, or Saturday and Sunday, to move them to the Superdome. We barely had enough drivers for that. So sure, we had the assets, but the drivers just weren't available.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Mr. Mayor, if you read the city of New Orleans' comprehensive emergency plan-- and I've read it and I'll show it to you and our viewers--it says very clearly, "Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the mayor of New Orleans. The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas. Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific life-saving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedure as needed. Approximately 100,000 citizens of New Orleans do not have means of personal transportation."

It was your responsibility. Where was the planning? Where was the preparation? Where was the execution?

MAYOR NAGIN: The planning was always in getting people to higher ground, getting them to safety. That's what we meant by evacuation. Get them out of their homes, which--most people are under sea level. Get them to a higher ground and then depending upon our state and federal officials to move them out of harm's way after the storm has hit.

So he wants us to think that an evacuation before a hurricane consists solely of getting people out of their homes?!?

Posted by Danny Carlton at September 12, 2005 10:16 AM

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Based on other reports, there are interesting problems with much of what Nagin says. But you don't even need to have read other news to notice what Nagin said when Russert asked if decisions were based on race:

"Well, you know, I don't know who hates black people."

"I don't know if that affected the response or not."

"You know, I don't know . . . "

He's been blaming an inadequte federal response on racism, but by his own admission he doesn't know if it's true. That's playing the race card in a most divisive manner, and he ought to be called on the carpet for it.

Posted by: Tom Gilson at September 12, 2005 11:58 AM

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