The Bush administration’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina reveals Bush’s shortcomings as a leader. The crisis was worsened by Bush’s mishandling of personnel, poor policy choices, and slow reaction. As a result, he did nothing to prove his competence.
According to a USA Today editorial, “[Bush] replaced competent leaders with people long on political connections but short on disaster management expertise” (USA Today). Appointing Michael Brown, an Oklahoma attorney with no relevant experience, to lead FEMA meant that the federal agency most capable of helping New Orleans’ citizens would be in untrained, unqualified hands. Brown blamed the Bush administration, and though he seems to dodge responsibility, he is correct to criticize the administration that appointed him.
Also, the Department of Homeland Security has focused so heavily on the war on terror that it was ill-prepared to cope with Hurricane Katrina, and Bush’s desire to shift responsibility to local governments renders them even less effective. One local official is quoted as saying: “Those of us in the business of dealing with emergencies find ourselves with no national leadership and no mentors” (Manjoo, 2005).
Finally, Bush and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff were warned of extensive flooding but did not react; the New York Times claims that “the alert did not seem to register. Even the next morning, President Bush was feeling relieved that New Orleans had ‘dodged the bullet’” (Lipton, 2006). They refused to evacuate citizens and basically abandoned many poor New Orleans’ residents, who constituted many of the deaths.
The Bush administration’s incompetence reveals itself in its poor handling of this disaster. Had it appointed competent leaders and reacted quickly to reports, it could have saved many and emerged worthy of the public’s confidence.
Anonymous. (2005). “Exposed by Katrina, FEMA’s flaws were years in making. USA Today. Retrieved 8 March 2006, from http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-09-07-our-view_x.htm.
Lipton, E. (2006, 10 February). White house knew of levee’s failure on night of storm. New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2006 from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/10/politics/10katrina.html?pagewanted=1;ei=5070;en=2dc5285bfe40dd9e;ex=1141966800.
Manjoo, F. (2005, 7 September). Why FEMA failed. Salon. Retrieved 8 March 2006, from http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/09/07/fema/.