The Short List

The blame game, Katrina disaster edition, has begun. It’s like a tragic version of Clue with everybody trying to figure out “whodunit.” Was it the president with his war in Iraq? Local government with incompetence? FEMA with its lack of funds? Was it Condoleezza in New York, laughing at a musical? Racism with a looted Wal-Mart rifle in the kitchen? Or maybe it was good ol’-fashioned bureaucracy in the study with red tape? George Bush, in an attempt to end the finger-pointing, proclaimed, “There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right, and what went wrong. What I’m interested [in] is helping save lives.” So who blew it? Or, better yet, who didn’t?

“And I don’t know whose problem it is. I don’t know whether it’s the governor’s problem. I don’t know whether it’s the president’s problem, but somebody needs to get their ass on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now.”

—New Orleans Mayor Ray Naggin,
September 2

“This is a national disgrace, FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can’t bail out the city of New Orleans.”

—Terry Ebert, head of New Orleans’
emergency operations, September 2

“I’ve heard you say during the course of a number of interviews that you found out about the convention center today. Don’t you guys watch television? Don’t you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today.”

—Ted Koppel, September 2

“We learned about it factually today that that’s what existed . . . I’m not gonna sit here and second-guess what, why evacuation rules were given, or why the city didn’t have buses available, that’s not the thing we need to do right now.”

—Mike Brown, FEMA chief,
September 2

“I’m not asking you why the city didn’t have buses available. I’m asking you why you didn’t have National Guards with trucks to get them out of there.”

—Ted Koppel, September 2

“How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!”

—A fellow shopper at Ferragamo
to Condoleezza Rice, September 2

“The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history . . . Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we’ve got to start with some new leadership. It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now.”

—Aaron Broussard, president of
Jefferson Parish, September 4

“I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, “They’re looting.” You see a white family, it says, “They’re looking for food.” And, you know, it’s been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black . . . So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help — with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible.”

—Kanye West (during a telethon,
where his co-reader, Mike Myers,
kept to the script), September 3

“The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home, and every day she called him and said, ‘Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.’ Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday . . . and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night! Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For god’s sakes, just shut up and send us somebody.”

—Aaron Broussard, September 4

“Three hundred of the Arkansas National Guard have landed in the city of New Orleans. These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well-trained, experienced, battle-tested and under my orders to restore order in the streets. They have M-16s, and they are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so if necessary, and I expect they will.”

—Governor Kathleen Blanco, September 4

“You know the reason why the looters got out of control? Because we had most of our resources saving people, thousands of people that were stuck in attics, man, old ladies . . . You pull off the doggone ventilator vent and you look down there and they’re standing in there in water up to their freaking necks.”

—Mayor Ray Naggin, September 4

“All levels of the government are doing the best they can. So long as any life is in danger, we’ve got work to do. Where it’s not going right, we’re going to make it right.”

—George Bush, September 4

“So I’m asking Congress, please investigate this now. Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don’t give me the same idiot.”

—Aaron Broussard, September 6


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