E-mail messages sent by Texas Governor Rick Perry’s staff in the days following Katrina’s landfall are pretty revealing.
As desperate people fled hurricane-ravaged New Orleans in search of food and shelter last fall, Gov. Rick Perry publicly welcomed them to Texas with the open arms of a caring neighbor.
But behind the scenes, Perry’s administration quickly began discussing how to quell the flood of humanity pouring into the state while protecting the governor’s image, according to e-mail released to the Houston Chronicle under the state’s Public Information Act.
“Question between you and I,” Perry’s communications director, Eric Bearse, wrote Sept. 1, “at what point do we go from being compassionate to being taken advantage of (meaning, are they sending us folks they don’t want?). Please erase when done reading.”
“Excelent point,” Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw responded. “We will soon hit that mark and will (be) able to push off to other states without appearing dispassionate. We just need to make sure the Feds fund all of the short term and long term costs consider it erased.”
Perry staffers discussed how much credit the governor should get for the state’s response, and they offered scathing commentary on the performance of certain officials, a perceived reluctance of some Texas cities to harbor evacuees and the unwillingness of some local leaders to follow the state’s advice.
On Sept. 2, [Perry’s deputy chief of staff Phil] Wilson wrote McCraw and Perry staff that someone with the Sugar Land Republican [Tom DeLay’s] office called, wanting to know whether Perry planned to call the National Guard to “protect Houston” from what was happening in New Orleans.
Houston had direct access to as many state troopers as needed, McCraw responded. The Guard, understaffed after deployments to Louisiana and overseas, would be deployed only if necessary, he added.
“Houston or any other city in Texas will not turn into a (New Orleans). Thanks,” McCraw wrote.
“DeLay’s office called again,” Wilson wrote 18 minutes later. This time, DeLay’s staff said the city of Houston was asking for the Guard to patrol the perimeter of Reliant Park and the George R. Brown Convention Center and to provide logistics support.
The Guard would take too long, McCraw responded. He had requested 360 troopers instead.
A couple of hours later, Wilson wrote, “DeLay’s staff called again and DeLay was standing right there. He REALLY wants to talk to the gov-especially about the national guard.”
An hour later, McCraw was writing Perry’s office for permission to activate 1,000 members of the Army National Guard to support evacuation and shelter operations throughout the state.