On Monday, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien conducted an interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (I blogged about that here). In the interview, Nagin seemed to have calmed down a bit from his "blame Bush for the slow response" rhetoric from a few days prior and moved to passing the buck onto someone else: La. Governor Blanco:
NAGIN: The president looked at me. I think he was a little surprised. He said, "No, you guys stay here. We’re going to another section of the plane, and we’re going to make a decision."
He called me in that office after that. And he said, "Mr. Mayor, I offered two options to the governor." I said — and I don’t remember exactly what. There were two options. I was ready to move today. The governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision.
S. O’BRIEN: You’re telling me the president told you the governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision?
S. O’BRIEN: Regarding what? Bringing troops in?
NAGIN: Whatever they had discussed. As far as what the — I was abdicating a clear chain of command, so that we could get resources flowing in the right places.
S. O’BRIEN: And the governor said no.
NAGIN: She said that she needed 24 hours to make a decision. It would have been great if we could of left Air Force One, walked outside, and told the world that we had this all worked out. It didn’t happen, and more people died.
But an ABC News investigation points to Blanco’s office passing the buck back to Nagin (emphasis added):
New Orleans’ own comprehensive emergency plan raises the specter of "having large numbers of people … stranded" and promises "the city … will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas."
"Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves," the plan states.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, however, that plan was not followed completely.
Instead of sending city buses to evacuate those who could not make it out on their own, people in New Orleans were told to go to the Superdome and the Convention Center, where no one provided sufficient sustenance or security.
There’s no question the federal government plays a major role in disaster relief. But federal officials say in order to get involved, they must first be asked to do so by state officials.
As one FEMA official told ABC News, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco failed to submit a request for help in a timely manner.
Shortly before Katrina hit, she sent President Bush a request asking for shelter and provisions, but didn’t specifically ask for help with evacuations. One aide to the governor told ABC News today Blanco thought city officials were taking care of the evacuation.
Stay tuned. More buck passing sure to be coming soon.
(Cross-posted at BlogsForBush)