The paper then concisely summarizes the way the President, his administration and his man on the ground in New Orleans are failing the region and our state:
But the Bush administration refuses to support the plan of Representative Richard Baker, Republican of Louisiana, which would give everyone the capacity to rebuild and which had the backing of the mayor, the governor and the state's Congressional delegation. (To add insult to injury, two days after the White House shot down Mr. Baker's proposal, President Bush suggested at a news conference that Louisiana's problem was the lack of a plan.)It's only in this last paragraph that the Times lapses into true fantasy: when it calls on the Republican-controlled Congress to lead where their President won't. Those folks swore off responsibility right about the time Bush/Cheney rolled into Washington.
Instead of an alternate solution, the president's Katrina czar, Donald Powell, has offered sleight of hand, touting $6.2 billion in development money for Louisiana passed last year by Congress as if it were somehow a substitute. And in an attempt to narrow the scope of the problem, Mr. Powell says the government first needs to care for the roughly 20,000 homeowners without flood insurance who lived outside the federally designated flood plain. The real tally of destroyed or damaged homes in the region is well over 200,000. And the real need is housing for residents, whether they were renters or owners, insured or uninsured, living above the flood plain or trusting the federal government's levees to protect them from storms.
Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on the wreckage of poor, low-lying New Orleans neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward. That has sparked the unproductive, blame-the-victim debate revolving around whether people should have lived there in the first place. The Ninth Ward provides a misleading picture of the city, as do the relatively unscathed tourist areas like the French Quarter and the Garden District. Huge swaths of the city have the empty quality of a ghost town. Stores wait for residents to reopen; residents wait to see if neighbors will return. The city and surrounding parishes will not meet Mr. Powell's neat categories, when renters lived beside owners, insured next to uninsured. He is talking like an actuary when a leader is needed to rescue this region.
Now, Congress has a responsibility to follow its own lead rather than the president's. We were outraged once, shocked at the images on our television sets, at the poverty in our collective backyard, and the devastation of a great city. As the disaster threatens to become permanent, we have every reason to remain so.