Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), cutting to the chase:
We’ve got to do more than the $10 billion that Congress appropriated. We need a massive Marshall-type plan to rebuild New Orleans.
But in rebuilding we should see this as an opportunity to rebuild urban America. New Orleans could be a model. There must be a commitment of billions and billions of dollars–maybe $50 billion to $100 billion.
I think even in other urban centers, there are people who are just barely existing…. I’ve cried a lot of tears the past few days as I watched television–to see somebody lying dead outside the convention center.
I went to Somalia in 1992 and I saw little babies dying before my eyes. This reminded me of Somalia. But this is America. We’re not a Third World country. This is an embarrassment. It’s a shame. It’s a national disgrace.
P.S. First: Crooks & Liars has the video of Celine Dion‘s powerful plea and her attack on the war in Iraq, on CNN/Larry King. (Forget any typical U.S. snark about Dion.) Second, C&L asks you to write the caption for this video with Wolf Blitzer’s comments.
Update [2005-9-5 12:4:16 by susanhu]: Thanks to mlr701’s e-mail tip, from today’s column by the LA Times‘s Michael Hiltzik:
“Bush’s Hurricane Response a Disaster“
“Nearly five years ago, the Bush administration rode into office bearing its cynicism about government high, like a banner.
“New Orleans is, or should be, the graveyard of the conservative ideology that government is useless.” … MORE BELOW:
An American city is reduced to Third World desperation as people who own nothing scrounge for necessities in a sea of waste and federal officials offer lame excuses about how their disaster plans would have worked fine had there not been, you know, a disaster. The president, at the head of a global power that can’t get its own troops or supplies off their bases to reach the needful, whines, “The private sector needs to do its part.” […]
This deplorable performance has deep roots. Joe M. Allbaugh, a Bush campaign hack without any crisis management experience who was named director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, disparaged federal disaster assistance as “an oversized entitlement program” before Congress in 2001. The public’s expectations of government in a disaster situation, he said, “may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level.” He advised stricken communities to rely for help on “faith-based organizations … like the Salvation Army and the Mennonite Disaster Service.”
If Allbaugh were not an amateur, he would have known that communities, “faith-based organizations” and the private sector become overwhelmed by disasters more modest than this one. In a crisis the federal government should be the first responder, not the last, to take charge, not wait to be asked.
Cynicism on such a scale is self-perpetuating. Determined to portray government as little but an intrusion into people’s lives, this gang made it irrelevant to hundreds of thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina — thus giving them, and us, good reason to be cynical after all.
The federal officials assigned to New Orleans have displayed an appalling combination of arrogance and ignorance. Thursday evening on NPR, I heard Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees FEMA, dismiss reports of thousands of refugees trapped at the New Orleans convention center for days without sustenance. He called the reports, in so many words, “rumors and anecdotes.” … […]
Then there’s Bush’s sustained assault on social insurance programs such as Social Security, safety nets that are to be replaced by the slogan “You’re on your own.”
New Orleans is not a local calamity; it belongs to us all, not least because it signals what to expect from this administration. If a major earthquake strikes Los Angeles or San Francisco, will President Bush wait to respond until he can conclude his vacation, as he did last week? Will his appointees express surprise at an eventuality that “no one could have predicted”?
Probably. George W. Bush is known for never admitting his mistakes. Consequently, he never learns from his mistakes. The chances are dismal that he will learn from this one. We’re on our own.
READ ALL: column (LA Times, free sub.)