I know Iâ€™m not the only Rhode Islander who sat in a traffic jam on Thursday wondering what on earth would happen in a real disaster. If a few inches of snow shut everything down what will happen when the next hurricane hits our coast? Was the Governor was more focused on politics than public safety? He left town without bothering to tell Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts he was in Iraq, and he took all the keys with him. It reminds me of the shabby treatment Gov. Kathleen Blanco suffered when she was falsely accused of not declaring a state of emergency prior to Hurricane Katrina. News outlets, including the Providence Journal editorial page (Questions after Katrina 9/8/05 p.B4) repeated that slander and few bothered to print a retraction.
We began to see some of these attacks over the weekend. Sunday’s Washington Post cited an anonymous Bush administration official who explained that one reason that the federal government didn’t intervene more quickly in Louisiana was because Kathleen Blanco, the state’s Democratic governor, failed to declare a state of emergency there, a necessary step for federal help to flow. An article in Newsweek repeats the same claim.
But there’s a problem with the White House’s excuse: It’s patently false. As Josh Marshall points out, Blanco declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26 — a day before Bush declared a federal emergency in Louisiana.
Reading the Journalâ€™s M.Charles Bakst I got a feeling of deja vu.
Roberts groused that Carcieri administration officials rebuffed her offers of assistance and her advice that the state Emergency Operations Center be activated.
She said, â€œThis is New England. We have snow. I understand we canâ€™t control nature. The timing of the storm was difficult. But we should be able to respond to a situation like this more effectively.â€?
You perhaps thought Carcieriâ€™s Iraq/Kuwait trip made Roberts acting governor. But a 1992 constitutional amendment deleted wording that put the lieutenant governor in charge whenever the number one was out of state. Indeed, Roberts said she hadnâ€™t known Carcieri was going away until she saw news accounts that he was already abroad.
The Lt. Governor is a Democrat, and a woman, and clearly didnâ€™t get invited to the important meetings. Reading Kiersten Marekâ€™s â€˜Partisanship Putting Everyone in Dangerâ€™ is enough to give you heartburn — especially the absurd excuse that the Lt.Gov. was kept out of the loop for security reasons. Yeah, I feel more secure now that Gov. Carcieri went to Iraq and got his picture taken.
But Iâ€™m not interested in watching various officials throw blame around. I just want to see them start working together and come up with a better plan so this doesnâ€™t happen again.