A leading hurricane forecaster, name not given, was to release his predictions today for the 2006 hurricane season, and Harry Smith of CBS’ "The Early Show" used this as an excuse to relive the problems with FEMA during hurricane Katrina. As his guest, Smith interviewed Jane Bullock. Smith introduced Ms. Bullock:
Harry Smith: "Jane Bullock is a former Chief of Staff at FEMA."
Yet he never mentions that while she worked for several decades at FEMA, she held this lofty position exclusively during the Clinton Administration for Clinton buddy James Lee Witt. Her high place in the Clinton administration could have helped put her anti-Bush comments into some context. (The same omission occurred on the CBS News website.) Bullock claimed:
"During the '90s, FEMA worked. FEMA was there to help people, they knew they could count on the government. I don't think anybody now can count on the government being there for them during times of disaster."
So FEMA worked while she was there, again not that time frame happened to be during her tenure. There is also no mention of the Clinton philosophy of dealing with emergencies: Disaster Pork. According to a 1997 article in "Slate," FEMA spending from the years 1992-1997 over $13 billion, as compared to $3.3 billion from 1987-1992.
Later, after Jane Bullock offered some sharp criticism of FEMA, Smith seemed bewildered that people in disaster areas may have to prepare themselves and stockpile supplies for themselves in the event of a disaster:
Harry Smith: "Jane, you paint such a dark picture here. It sounds to me, as our experience was last year, you're basically on your own. If you're an individual living in a, in a coastal area in the United States, it's up to you to save yourself."
He went on to lament that people in New Orleans can't rely on the government to provide flood insurance unless the levees are built stronger:
Harry Smith: "This is incredible, Corps of Engineers been busy fixing levees, as everybody knows, but the government says it's not even going to issue flood insurance unless the levees are built even bigger than the corps said they're going to build them. How can this continue to go on?"
Let’s be clear, no one is suggesting that FEMA performed well to hurricane Katrina, and no one is suggesting that there isn’t significant room for improvement in the government’s response to a disaster. But, is it really all the unreasonable to expect people in disaster areas to at least take some responsibility for their own well-being during and immediately after a disaster rather than only relying on the government?