Steve Benen: In general, the ability of government agencies to respond to a natural disaster only draws attention when agencies fall short. The media tends to look for “the next Katrina” to demonstrate that feckless bureaucracies and government incompetence are the new norm.
But they don’t have to be, and with an effective administration, they’re not. The New York Times has a report today on the emergency response in the Southeast …. but in this case, the governmental response is earning praise, not condemnations: see here for details on the FEMA and White House response to the disaster
….President Obama and the First Lady were also on the ground in Alabama barely 40 hours after the storm struck. One local resident, who house was obliterated by a tornado, told the NYT, “It ain’t like Katrina. We’re getting help.”
What’s more, Kevin Drum notes some larger context: “Under Bush Sr., FEMA sucked. Under Clinton, FEMA was rehabilitated and turned into a superstar agency. Under Bush Jr., FEMA sucked again. Under Obama, FEMA’s doing great and responding quickly. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to politicize natural disasters. Not when that politicization makes Republicans look bad, anyway. So I’ll just let you draw your own conclusions from these four data points.”
I don’t imagine we’ll hear much about the Obama administration’s response in the Southeast; the media tends to only find these stories interesting if the government is failing instead of succeeding.
But it’s worth keeping in mind anyway. If it’s important when a federal response falls short, it’s worth appreciating what competent governance is capable of.
New York Times: It has been the deadliest natural disaster on American soil since Hurricane Katrina. But the government response to the tornadoes that devastated the South last week has, at least in the first few days, drawn little of the searing criticism aimed at federal agencies back in
In numerous interviews in the low-income Alberta neighborhood here on Friday, shortly before President Obama and other officials toured what is now an unimaginable wasteland, residents said they had few complaints about the handling of the aftermath by state, local and federal agencies.
Many expressed mild frustration about limits on their access to damaged homes, the pace of road clearing and power restoration, and traffic jams caused by roadblocks and nonfunctioning signals. But most agreed that government and charitable agencies were coping as effectively as feasible with immediate demands for shelter, food, water and medical care, along with search and rescue operations.
“It ain’t like Katrina,” said Darius Rutley, 21, whose house in Alberta was obliterated. “We’re getting help.”
Axavier Wilson, 20, who survived the storm in a closet as the rest of his house blew away, said he had been impressed that both Gov. Robert Bentley and Mr. Obama had visited rapidly. “I don’t think there’s much to mumble and grumble about,” he said. “Everybody feels secure about getting help.”
There was a single cry of “Help us” on Friday from a man who watched the president’s motorcade roll through a treeless lunar landscape, but hardly the wails of stunned desperation shouted from New Orleans rooftops…..