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Profile: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Positions that Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has held:

  • Louisiana Governor

Related Entities:

Quotes

September 1, 2005

“These troops are battle-tested.… They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will.” [Reuters, 9/1/2005; BBC, 9/1/2005]

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco was a participant or observer in the following events:

During President Bush’s visit to Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco asks the president in a private conversation to include $50 million in his budget to begin construction work on the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) wetlands restoration project. She follows up with a formal letter outlining her request. [Associated Press, 2/3/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D-LA) is sworn into office as Louisiana’s first woman governor, replacing Governor Mike Foster (R-LA). [Louisiana, 9/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Mike Foster, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Governor Kathleen Blanco says in response to the release of President Bush’s 2005 budget (see February 2, 2004): “While I am pleased to see that President Bush included some money in his executive budget to address coastal restoration in Louisiana, I must say I am disappointed that the $8 million he proposed is less than one-sixth of what I had requested. We need immediate help… to protect our state and our nation from the continued degradation of the area we call America’s Wetland.” [Associated Press, 2/3/2004]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In a letter to President Bush, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco urges the president and his energy secretary, Samuel W. Bodman, to visit the Louisiana coast and see first-hand the deteriorating condition of the state’s coastal wetlands. She wants the administration to reconsider its objection (see July 15, 2004) to a provision in the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6) that would channel oil and gas royalties from offshore operations to coastal states for coastal wetland restoration. In her letter, she emphasizes how Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands is making the oil and gas industry’s vast network of pipelines increasingly vulnerable to damage. She also stresses that coastal wetlands have historically protected the coast from the full fury of hurricanes and, without this barrier, a major hurricane could devastate low-elevation coastal communities like New Orleans. “Let me show you the fragile wetlands that are the only protection for the thousands of miles of pipelines that connect this nation to 80 percent of its offshore energy supply and to a full third of all its oil and gas, both foreign and domestic. The vulnerability of those protective wetlands is all the more apparent to our two million coastal zone residents during this active hurricane season.” [Louisiana, 7/20/2005; Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush, Samuel W. Bodman

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declares a state of emergency in light of the threat to the state posed by Katrina. This declaration effectively activates Louisiana’s emergency response and recovery program under the command of the director of the state office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. [Louisiana, 8/26/2005] According to Deputy Press Secretary Roderick Hawkins, Blanco issued the declaration in anticipation of possible damage from Hurricane Katrina, noting that the declaration effectively places the Louisiana National Guard on alert: “It puts us on standby just in case we need to mobilize the National Guard.” [KSLA 12 (Shreveport), 8/26/2005 Sources: Roderick Hawkins] . This declaration, in fact, grants Blanco broad powers to respond to the pending disaster, including the power to “[d]irect and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the state if he deems this action necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster mitigation, response or recovery.” [Louisiana State Law, Rev. St. sec. 766] Blanco, however, will decline to exercise this power in the coming hours, electing to defer to local officials.

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco, determining that the storm will be so big that state and local governments will not be able to handle it, asks President Bush to declare a state of emergency. The exact timing of Blanco’s letter is unclear. The PDF version of the letter is dated August 28. [Louisiana, 8/28/2005 pdf file] However, the Federal News dateline for the letter is 4:27 am EDT August 27. [Federal News Service, 8/27/2005] Governor Blanco’s office and the Times-Picayune will publish the full text of the letter today. [Louisiana, 8/27/2005; Walker, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Alabama Governor Bob Riley offers Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mississippi Governor Barbour assistance if necessary, upon reviewing this morning’s National Weather Service report showing that Katrina’s most serious impact will most likely be in Louisiana and Mississippi. [Alabama, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Bob Riley, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Haley Barbour, National Weather Service

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Michael Brown appears on CNN to discuss the pending crisis in New Orleans posed by Hurricane Katrina. According to Brown, FEMA has “done a lot of planning for a hurricane striking New Orleans because of New Orleans lying below sea level.” He urges residents to evacuate, warning that there will be significant flooding, and travel will be impossible: “So, people have between now and Sunday afternoon to really get ready and I encourage them to do that right now.” According to Brown, FEMA has already dispatched teams to Mississippi and Louisiana, and “[w]e’re ready to respond in every possible way, because we do anticipate this being a very significant event.” Brown states that Governor Blanco is currently in conference with emergency officials, and, “once she gets all the detailed information from the hurricane center, from FEMA and the rest of us,” she will decide when to implement the Contraflow plan to facilitate the evacuation. Brown warns residents in the storm’s path: “[Y]ou have about 36 hours now to understand how serious this storm is, and to make your preparations to keep your family and to keep your business safe. You’ve got to do that now, tomorrow and Monday is going to be too late.” [CNN, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hurricane Katrina, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

By this time, Louisiana has asked for voluntary evacuations of ten parishes, and mandatory evacuations of St. Charles Parish, according to Jim Ballow, Assistant Chief of Operations of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Local parishes are in conference with Governor Blanco to discuss further evacuations. Ballow explains the challenges of evacuating New Orleans: Evacuating residents “with… limited evacuation routes and some that are susceptible to high water as well, pose[] a challenge. We need to decide early—certain number of hours out, as per state evacuation plan, to begin evacuating them, so we can effectively remove as many people as possible and then stop the evacuation prior to the storm striking.” [CNN, 8/27/2005 Sources: Jim Ballow]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

President Bush declares an emergency for Louisiana, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected area. This declaration activates the National Response Plan, and authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for parishes in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in multiple parishes. Bush’s declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property.” In response to this declaration, FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. [White House, 8/27/2005; US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] . As Governor Blanco will later note, this pre-impact declaration is extremely unusual. The last time a president issued a pre-impact declaration was when Hurricane Andrew was bearing down on Florida in 1992. [CNN, 8/27/2005] Note that while President Bush’s emergency declaration identifies 39 parishes, it does not identify the parishes in Katrina’s path, apparently due to a clerical error. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] This omission has no practical effect, and a corrected declaration will be issued on Monday. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005]
Note 1 - Reuters will later incorrectly report that Bush appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer, and will imply that such action is somehow unusual. [Reuters, 9/15/2005] In fact, as reflected in the official Federal Register entry, and in the White House release, Brown appoints Lokey as the coordinating officer for Louisiana. This appointment is consistent with standard practice: For each declared emergency, a different (lower level) individual is appointed as the federal coordinating officer.
Note 2 - Knight Ridder (and other news media) will later incorrectly report that Bush failed to trigger the federal government’s responsibility, and that it is not triggered until DHS Secretary Chertoff’s August 31 announcement that the Katrina disaster is an “Incident of National Significance.” [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/15/2005] In fact, Bush’s declaration (a) effectively authorizes FEMA to provide a full and immediate federal response to the unfolding crisis, and (b) makes the crisis an “Incident of National Significance.” [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] , at 7 (“Note that while all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance, not all Incidents of National Significance necessarily result in disaster or emergency declarations under the Stafford Act.”); [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] (granting FEMA full authority to respond to the emergency.) The strategy behind DHS Secretary Chertoff’s much ballyhooed—and inaccurate—August 31 announcement that his declaration triggers for the first time a coordinated federal response to states and localities overwhelmed by disaster remains unclear at this time.

Entity Tags: Stafford Act, National Response Plan, William Lokey, Michael Chertoff, George W. Bush, Michael D. Brown, Hurricane Andrew, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco and local officials from Southeastern Louisiana parishes hold a special press conference to urge residents to evacuate. Blanco reports that the parishes are cooperating in following the evacuation plan, and encourages residents to listen to their parish leaders regarding when they should leave their area. Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish, then outlines the particulars of the evacuations, noting that residents of low-lying regions need to leave immediately, so that other residents can follow. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warns residents that Hurricane Katrina poses a grave danger to the city: “This is not a test. This is the real deal. Things could change, but as of right now, New Orleans is definitely the target for this hurricane.” Nagin says that New Orleans will follow the state’s evacuation plan, and thus, he will not officially order evacuations until 30 hours before expected landfall, to allow those residents in low-lying surrounding areas to leave first. However, he recommends that residents in low-lying areas of the city, such as Algiers and the 9th Ward, get a head start, noting: “We want you to take this a little more seriously and start moving—right now, as a matter of fact.” Acknowledging that many residents have no independent means of transportation, Nagin says that the city might open the Superdome as a shelter of last resort for evacuees with special needs, but advises evacuees who plan to stay there to bring their own food, drinks, and other comforts necessary. Police Chief Eddie Compass states that New Orleans likely will issue a curfew at some point, and the police department will station police officers at shopping centers to prevent looting. Blanco sums up the situation: “We have been very blessed so far. We’ve escaped the brunt of most of the hurricanes that have been generated. But now it looks like we’re going to have to bear some of the brunt of this storm.” [CNN, 8/27/2005; Times-Picayune Blog, 8/27/2005; Associated Press, 8/27/2005; Washington Post, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Hurricane Katrina, Aaron Broussard, Ray Nagin, Eddie Compass

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco orders Louisiana State Police and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to implement the Contraflow Plan (see 4:00 pm August 27, 2005) beginning 4:00 pm. State Police announce that they have already staged necessary assets in anticipation of the Contraflow implementation. Police remind all drivers to be cautious. If a minor crash occurs, motorists should move the vehicles off the roadway and notify local law enforcement. Traffic will be heavy. Police request that residents “please be patient and courteous to other motorists.” [Louisiana State Police, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Louisiana State Police

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco appears on CNN to discuss the evacuation: “We’re asking neighbors to be concerned about their neighbors.… We want people to help each other. I’m actually encouraging the ministers, who’s flock may be showing up for services in the morning, to encourage their people say a prayer and send them home packing, and help each other get out of town. I think the mayor’s also arranging for some transportation measures. We’ve got to work this whole thing together.” [CNN, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

NHC Director Max Mayfield personally calls Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mississippi Governor Barbour. Mayfield tells Barbour that Katrina may be a “Camille-like storm.” He tells Blanco that this one will be a “big, big deal.” “I wanted to be able to go to sleep that night,” he will later recall. According to Mayfield, Blanco is unsure that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has fully grasped the situation and urges Mayfield to call him. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Hurricane Camille, Haley Barbour, Max Mayfield, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Governor Blanco will send a letter to President Bush today, requesting that he declare an “expedited major disaster” for Louisiana in light of the approaching hurricane. According to Blanco, “this incident will be of such severity and magnitude that effective response will be beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance will be necessary.” [Louisiana, 8/28/2005 pdf file] Note: A Presidential declaration of a major disaster expands the federal assistance programs available to assist the affected area in recovering from the impact of the disaster, while the earlier declaration of emergency authorizes shorter-term federal assistance to protect lives, property, and the public safety immediately before or after a disaster. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mississippi Governor Barbour will specifically request additional security forces, beginning today, according to General Honore does not specifically identify the governor(s) who make this request. According to Honoree through collaboration between the adjutant general and the National Guard Bureau, additional security force capabilities begin flowing into Louisiana and to Mississippi “approximately around Sunday.” FEMA requests support in search and rescue beginning Sunday as well. [US Department of Defense, 9/1/2005 Sources: Russel Honore] According to a later New York Times report, FEMA will deploy only seven of its 28 urban search and rescue teams by the end of today, and will send no FEMA staff into New Orleans until after the storm has passed. [New York Times, 9/11/2005] On the other hand, Knight Ridder will report that FEMA will deploy 18 search and rescue teams and 39 medical teams before the storm. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Haley Barbour, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

After noting that the Red Cross has predicted that as many as 100,000 people could die if a hurricane would hit New Orleans, ABC reporter Kate Snow asks Louisiana Governor Blanco how the evacuation is proceeding. Blanco responds: “We started evacuations early yesterday. Started encouraging people to voluntarily evacuate from the low-lying areas surrounding the Orleans area. And today we’re focusing on the final people who are still in the city, encouraging them to leave. There will be all sorts of modes of transportation available to those who have no transportation. City buses will be available. Other people are bringing buses in. We also, I believe are lining up trains to move as many people out as possible.” [ABC, 8/28/2005] Note that Amtrak’s last train reportedly left Saturday evening around 8:30 pm (see 8:30 pm August 27, 2005).

Entity Tags: Kate Snow, American Red Cross, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

President Bush telephones Governor Blanco (apparently in response to FEMA Director Michael Brown’s request to call New Orleans Mayor Nagin (see Before 9:30am August 28, 2005), to urge a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, according to later reports. Blanco responds that Mayor Nagin has already decided to do so, and will make the announcement shortly. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco takes the podium to reinforce the need for evacuation: “I want to reiterate what the mayor has said (see (9:30 am) August 28, 2005). This is a very dangerous time. Just before we walked into this room, President Bush called (see Shortly before 9:30 am August 28, 2005) and told me to share with all of you that he is very concerned about the residents. He is concerned about the impact that this hurricane would have on our people. And he asked me to please ensure that there would be a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. The leaders at the highest ranks of our nation have recognized the destructive forces and the possible awesome danger that we are in. And I just want to say, we need to get as many people out as possible. The shelters will end up probably without electricity or with minimum electricity from generators in the end. There may be intense flooding that will be not in our control, which would be ultimately the most dangerous situation that many of our people could face. Waters could be as high as 15 to 20 feet.… That would probably be ultimately the worst situation. We’re hoping that it does not happen that way. We need to pray, of course, very strongly, that the hurricane force would diminish.” Blanco then describes the gridlock on roads leading out of New Orleans, and urges residents to take alternate routes. [CNN, 8/28/2005; WWLTV 4 (New Orleans), 8/28/2005; KATC News (Lafayette, LA), 8/30/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Governor Blanco once again urges evacuation and shelter: “To those residents who have the ability to leave, I urge you to leave now. If you cannot leave the city, I urge you to go to one of the city-sponsored shelters in the New Orleans area. I am gravely concerned about reports coming in regarding those who are choosing not to evacuation. I strongly urge you to get to safety while there is still time to do so.” Blanco reports, “I am thankful to say that we’ve successfully evacuated hundreds of thousands of residents in the last 24 hours. State officials, working with local and parish officials and officials in Mississippi, have worked hard to maintain a safe evacuation process. While many people are still on the roads trying to get out of the city, traffic patterns indicate that everyone who has the ability to leave New Orleans will be able to evacuate by this evening.….With the exception of Highway 61 and I-10 eastbound at Slidell, all evacuation routes out of the city will remain open for residents desiring to leave this evening. Contraflow loading has ended, but evacuation has not.” [Louisiana, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

According to a later interview with the New York Times, FEMA Director Mike Brown states that upon return to Baton Rouge from New Orleans, he has become concerned about the lack of coordinated response from Louisiana officials. “What do you need? Help me help you,” Brown said he asked them. “The response was like, ‘Let us find out,’ and then I never received specific requests for specific things that needed doing.” Bob Mann, Blanco’s Communications Director will assert, however, that during this period, Blanco becomes frustrated with Brown and FEMA for expecting itemized requests before they will do anything. According to Mann, “It was like walking into an emergency room bleeding profusely and being expected to instruct the doctors how to treat you.” [New York Times, 9/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, appearing on NBC, Today Show, reports that “I believe the water has breached the levee system, and is—is coming in. I mean, we’ve got water in so many areas there that, you know, none of that’s a big surprise. It’s just a big worry.” (Blanco is likely referring to the Industrial Canal floodwall.) Officials are “hearing of flooding of six-to-eight-foot waters in eastern New Orleans near the parish line of Orleans and St. Bernard. Obviously, our low-lying areas are experiencing a lot of flooding as well.” According to Blanco, the water is rising at about one foot per hour: “And yes, that gives us great concern. The area that we’re talking about is a heavily populated area. We’re hoping that it—that it was 100 percent evacuated. Eight-foot waters are—are very serious.” Blanco warns that, “We have not seen the last of—of the damage. I expect that it will worsen throughout the day.” [MSNBC, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

At a briefing just before 9:00 am this morning, state officials report that flooding is becoming a problem in Orleans Parish. About six to eight feet of water has already collected in the Lower 9th Ward. Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau reports that emergency personnel stationed at Jackson Barracks have confirmed that the waters are rising, although he does not know whether the flooding is due to a levee breach or overtopping. Extensive flooding already has been reported along St. Claude and Claiborne avenues. Charity Hospital reports flooding on the first floor. St. Bernard and Plaquemines officials also report flooding. Governor Blanco urges residents that they should not return, because their homes will likely be unreachable: “You will hamper search and rescue efforts… [and it] will be impossible for you to get where you need to go.” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Bennett C. Landreneau

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Mike Brown arrives at the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness, in Baton Rouge shortly before 11 am, and joins a conference call with Louisiana Governor Blanco and other federal and state officials. According to the Times-Picayune, “Researchers watching the storm from Baton Rouge have gotten reports of [six] feet of water at Jackson Barracks in the Lower 9th Ward, as well as flooding along the Industrial Canal.” Kevin Robbins, director of the Southern Regional Climate Center at LSU, states that water should begin receding around the Industrial Canal area, and they have received no reports of flooding in the Uptown area. Because Katrina destroyed or disabled many of the stations that record water surges in lakes and rivers, information about the worst surges is just not available. “We are working in a data poor environment,” Robbins says. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Kevin Robbins, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

From the Baton Rouge emergency center, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) issues a statement regarding Hurricane Katrina, commending local officials and Governor Blanco for their work. “Unfortunately, the reverberations of this storm will be felt not only in Louisiana but across the nation.” Blanco also reiterates her appeal for protection of Louisiana’s wetlands: “Our port system provides the nation with the transportation needs for our country’s economy while our coastline provides the energy for our homes and industries. And Louisiana’s unique wetlands provide our state with a buffer zone from natural disasters such as hurricanes. But our wetlands have been eroding. As I have said before, in order for us to protect America’s energy supply and transportation needs, the federal government must join with the people of Louisiana to preserve America’s wetlands.” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Mary L. Landrieu

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Around this time, FEMA announces a plan to send 500 commercial buses into New Orleans to rescue the thousands of people still stranded there. Louisiana Governor Blanco will later recall that when FEMA Director Michael Brown personally notifies her of FEMA’s plan, she assumes that the buses are pre-staged near New Orleans. “I assumed that FEMA had staged their buses in near proximity,” she said. “I expected them to be out of the storm’s way but accessible in one day’s time,” Blanco will later recall. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 9/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Governor Kathleen Blanco holds a press conference urging evacuated residents to stay put. Blanco reports that officials have received calls from 115 people in New Orleans who say they are stranded, as well as an Unknown number of people in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. When the winds subside, boats will be deployed from Jackson Barracks in the Lower 9th Ward to go look for people who are trapped. Blanco discusses the widespread flooding in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, reporting that the water as deep as 10-12 feet in some places. Local officials at the St. Bernard courthouse are trapped on the second floor, and water is rising to that level. State officials have received reports that as many as 20 buildings in New Orleans have collapsed or toppled from the winds. Water is leaking from the 17th Street Canal floodwall. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] During the press conference, Blanco thanks FEMA Director Michael Brown and says, “I hope you will tell President Bush how much we appreciated—these are the times that really count—to know that our federal government will step in and give us the kind of assistance that we need.” Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) reiterates Blanco’s praise: “We are indeed fortunate to have an able and experienced director of FEMA who has been with us on the ground for some time.” Brown responds to their praise in kind: “What I’ve seen here today is a team that is very tight-knit, working closely together, being very professional doing it, and in my humble opinion, making the right calls.” [New York Times, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

State Representative Charlie Melancon (D-Napoleonville), issues the following statement on Katrina: “I am grateful for the strong leadership of Governor Blanco and for the tireless professionalism of the team here in Baton Rouge. I’d also like to thank President Bush for signing the Declaration of Disaster and starting the flow of aid. The entire range of federal and state resources is being coordinated here for the most immediate and effective response. With cooperation from our entire delegation, and the help of our colleagues and friends here in Congress, we hope to gather support for a federal response that will address the needs of our state following this disaster declaration. We must meet this challenge and move forward together. Peachy and I are praying for all of you affected by Katrina. This is not our first hurricane, and it will surely not be our last. But South Louisianans are good and strong people and we are committed to making it through this disaster together. Damage assessments have yet to begin but it is clear that we will have significant immediate and long term needs. Our wetlands and coastal area contribute greatly to America and this is a moment when we will need a lot back from our nation. Supporting a quick recovery of the oil and gas industry, while providing federal assistance for our commercial fishermen and agricultural industries will be critical to rebuilding the fabric of south Louisiana and our contributions to the national economy. We must also redouble our efforts to rebuild South Louisiana itself. The true costs of losing the buffers of our wetlands and barrier islands are now apparent. And after Katrina, what was earlier a $14 billion need for coastal restoration may have become billions of dollars more expensive. I urge residents of Parishes affected by Katrina to heed the orders of Emergency Preparedness officials and do not return to your homes until the all clear is given.” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Charlie Melancon, Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In a subsequent interview with the New York Times, FEMA Director Mike Brown will state that by this evening, he is calling the DHS and White House to report that the emergency response is in chaos. Reportedly, in a status call with Washington, Brown reports that Governor Blanco’s office is “proving incapable of organizing a coherent state effort.” (Bob Mann, Blanco’s Communications Director flatly denies Mr. Brown’s description: “That is just totally inaccurate. Everything that Mr. Brown needed in terms of resources or information from the state, he had those available to him.”) Brown also reports that his field officers are reporting an “‘out of control’ situation” in New Orleans. According to Brown, he informs the White House early and repeatedly that state and local officials are overwhelmed and that the response is going badly, saying a dozen times, “I cannot get a unified command established.” The White House, contend that Brown’s communications are “not filled with the urgency” that he later recalls. [New York Times, 9/15/2005] Other officials report chaos within FEMA’s Washington headquarters. It becomes “a zoo” at the height of the disaster, according to one longtime FEMA official. “Everything is being done by the seat of the pants,” the official will say. “It’s like reinventing the wheel. We’re starting from scratch as though no planning had even been done before.” Chertoff representative Russ Knocke, however, will insist that FEMA’s response is relying upon long-standing plans and goes “much smoother than the response to the Sept. 11 attacks.” “Because of the National Response Plan,” Knocke will say, “‘there is no confusion, no chaos, there’s just immediate action and results.’” [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Michael D. Brown, National Response Plan, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Russ Knocke

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco calls President Bush this evening. Reportedly, she tells him, “Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you’ve got.” Blanco later recalls that Bush was reassuring. However, the conversation is rather vague, according to later reports. Blanco does not specifically ask for a massive intervention by the active-duty military. “She wouldn’t know the 82nd Airborne from the Harlem Boys’ Choir,” says an official in Governor Blanco’s office (who wishes to remain anonymous). [Newsweek, 9/19/2005] Blanco will later acknowledge that she does not “give him a checklist or anything.” [Time, 9/11/2005] “Do we stop and think about it?” she will ask. “We just stop and think about help.” [New York Times, 9/11/2005] Blanco’s aides will contend that she should not have to provide a detailed list under the circumstances: “That’s like telling a drowning man that you are not going to help him until he asks for a life preserver.” [Time, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Governor Blanco tells CNN’s Larry King that entire parishes in southeastern Louisiana are underwater, with many homes flooded to the rooftops, leaving thousands stranded: “[W]e’re in full search and rescue operation. We have pulled hundreds of people out of the waters. As we speak we’ve got boats moving up and down streets that, well, canals that used to be streets and people are beckoning our rescuers.” Asked whether Louisiana has adequate National Guard troops on hand, Blanco responds that, “We have an extraordinary number of National Guard members who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan but we have activated 4,000 members. We have some support coming from Texas as well. Our Guard is really helping us in extraordinary ways in bringing in a lot of search and rescue equipment in the morning. We will be in full swing tomorrow. We believe there will still be hundreds more people.” [CNN, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana National Guard, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will call Governor Blanco today to offer assistance by providing National Guard troops from his state. Paul Shipley, Richardson’s representative, later recalls, “We were ready to go. We had offered our help.” [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005] Florida Governor Jeb Bush and state emergency officials also reportedly offer their assistance to both Louisiana and Mississippi. [Palm Beach Post, 9/10/2005] New Mexico will deploy an urban search and rescue team to Louisiana on Monday (see Evening August 29, 2005), but its National Guard will not arrive until Friday.

Entity Tags: Paul Shipley, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Bill Richardson, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Congress rewrites a two-centuries-old prohibition against the president using federal troops, or state National Guard troops acting under federal control, to act as police on domestic soil. The prohibition dates back to the Insurrection Act of 1807, which stated that the only circumstance under which the president could use troops to enforce the law against US citizens is during a time of armed revolt. The ban on using troops against citizens was strengthened by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids any government official from using military soldiers as police without specific authorization from Congress. The new law stems from the reported lawlessness that swept New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated large parts of the city. The governor of Louisiana, Democrat Kathleen Blanco, refused to allow the federal government to take over the evacuation of the city, fearing that the change would amount to martial law (see 11:00 am EDT August 25, 2005). After this rejection, and the devastation wrought in Texas by Hurricane Rita just weeks later, President Bush began discussing the idea of a new law that would allow the president to impose martial law in a region for reasons other than citizen uprisings. He called it “making the Department of Defense the lead agency” in handling emergencies such as those created by Katrina and Rita, or by another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11. (Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo argues that the president does not need any new laws because his inherent authority as commander in chief lets him send federal troops anywhere he likes, no matter what the law says.) A year later, Congressional Republicans slip a provision into a large military appropriations bill allowing the president to deploy federal troops as police at his discretion, regardless of the possible objections of state governors. Any situation in which the president feels the “constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order” can trigger military control of a city, county, or state at the president’s behest. Bush signs the law into effect on October 17 with virtually no debate or public discussion. [Savage, 2007, pp. 316-319]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, George W. Bush, Insurrection Act, Posse Comitatus Act, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, John C. Yoo

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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