Oliver Willis linked to a story yesterday by Lou Dolinar that is getting picked up by right wing blogs. The story basically says the White House needs to rehabilitate their Katrina reputation and Dolinar found the way to do it by arguing the Katrina response wasn’t so bad…. It was the media coverage that was bad. There was too much focus on the bad stories of Katrina and the media missed the good one involving the National Guard. He focuses primarily on the rescue operations of the National Guard and to a lesser degree that of the Coast Guard as stories not covered by the media.
The crux of Dolinar’s argument is based on these stats (and often cited in linking blogs)…
Jack Harrison, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, cited “10,244 sorties flown, 88,181 passengers moved, 18,834 cargo tons hauled, 17,411 saves” by air. Unlike the politicians, they had a working chain of command that commandeered more relief aid from other Guard units outside the state. From day one.
Let’s try that again: The cavalry wasn’t late. It didn’t arrive on Thursday smoking a cigar and cussing. It was there all along.
Thus the disaster response was not late or lacking according to Dolinar. The media was. General Honore really wasn‘t that John Wayne dude to the rescue. And by extension the White House really should not be blamed.
My question is what is the time frame for the above stats? It is never stated and given the DoD stats below I suspect those numbers are the totals for all National Guard operations over weeks not in the critical first week which Dolinar would want you to believe because without that timeframe his whole argument sinks.
The Department of Defense reported these numbers from the National Guard Bureau (the same Bureau that Dolinar references) on Sept. 3 which would have been the Saturday after Katrina hit…. that important time before the “Cavalry“ arrived.
The Air National Guard flew 721 sorties in the past few days, evacuating over 11,000 people to safety and delivering 3,600 tons of life-saving supplies and equipment into the devastated area, National Guard Bureau officials reported.
(Click Read More for the rest)
A “few days” is not defined. Is it 2 or 4 or the total since operations began? In searching the DoD press releases I found no prior reference to National Guard stats on sorties, etc. But let’s try to examine and extrapolate.
On Sept 4 Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, (again of the Bureau Dolinar’s cites) is quoted as saying he witnessed “dramatic changes in the last 36 hours.”
If 721 sorties in “the last few days” reflects a “dramatic change” they must have been flying fewer sorties in the equivalent number of days prior. But being generous and using 721 and defining last few days as 2, and starting with Day One to Saturday (most likely Friday though) they would have flown another 1442 sorties yielding a total of 2163 sorties. However Dolinar would like you to believe it is over 10,000 or 79% more. Similar results occur with the people transported…. 33000 to Dolinar’s 105592 (69%) but to a lesser degree with cargo….10800 tons to Dolinar’s 18834 (43%) One could argue much happened on Saturday and Sunday but by then the “Cavalry” had arrived.
Could they really have miscalculated or under reported by as much as 79% at a time when the administration was under tremendous pressure to show it was doing all it could do?
Perhaps a great number of those 10,000+ flights came in week 2 but that hardly supports Dolnar’s thesis that the Cavalry wasn’t late. By then the Cavalry was there and it was needed.
Please don’t misunderstand. This is in NO way critical of the job the National Guard or Coast Guard did. The Coast Guard was the model of what the response should have been. NO ONE and I mean no one has ever been critical of what they accomplished. They acted effectively and heroically. But Everyone knows that. Is that why Dolinar turned his focus to the National Guard to bring something new to the table? Finally is this really about the blaming the media or something else entirely. He makes no bones about why this is important when he concludes with this…
What’s more puzzling is why the White House hasn’t joined Blanco in trying to rehabilitate its reputation. The handling of Katrina by FEMA is one of the most-cited reasons for the President’s low poll numbers. The national Democratic Party, meanwhile, continues to try to hang Katrina around the President’s neck. As Adam Nagourney recently wrote in the New York Times, “Democrats are looking to this city as the symbol of an administration that is at once incompetent and heartless.”
FEMA failed miserably. Yet the Coast Guard, a branch of the much-maligned Department of Homeland Security, operated precisely according to plan and saved up to 30,000 lives amid near total destruction. The National Guard Bureau helped run the show. The State Guard and regular military, which owes its extraordinary professionalism to the administration’s insistence on training and equipage for service in Iraq, saved tens of thousands more.
That’s the real story of Katrina. But the national media isn’t about to acknowledge it unless the administration makes its own case, something that, so far at least, it hasn’t begun to do.
Ironically Dolinar’s argument in fact cheapens what the National Guard did do. Over 2000 sorties and 11000 transported is truly a heckuva job. A few thousand Louisiana Guard worked tirelessly, accomplished much, saved lives and held out until the Cavalry DID come. But the Cavalry WAS needed and late. (Certainly the LA National Guard was not to be expected to take on the Herculean task of Katrina indefinitely.) Why bend time or use numbers with no context at best and/or misleading ones at worst when the simple Truth IS a GOOD story? Unless the real goal of Dolinar is the rehabilitation of the White House. Then focus on the LA Guard, as the time and numbers of the federal response are not on your side.