Nagin vs. Rudy

I’ve see a lot of stories lately about how wonderful Rudy Giuliani handled the aftermath of 9/11 vs Nagin rebuilding New Orleans. Lorie blogged about it below.

I have to wonder if these people have any understanding of proportions. (sorry Lorie)

Let’s look at the two events.

In New York, a seven square block area of the city was damaged including 2 mammoth buildings falling down. What did Rudy manage to accomplish in the aftermath? He got heavy equipment to come in and haul away the debris. And that took 9 months.

That’s it. No rebuilding of critical infrastructure, no restoration of power to a whole city, no struggling for a year just to return potable water to a city… No rebuilding effort of any type. Just hauling away debris… and that took 9 months. For this he is a Republican Demigod.

– Oh and he made some good speeches.

In New Orleans, the Corps of Engineers destroyed an entire city.

150,000 homes were destroyed and thousands more businesses. Consider this…. 350,000 automobiles were flooded and had to be hauled away… If you placed all the cars destroyed in New Orleans end to end they would reach from the broken 17th street canal floodwall all the way to New York’s ground zero. (go head, do the math)

Then people all around the nation bash Nagin and act like he had that special city rebuilding magic wand but was too stupid to put batteries in it for 12 months. Get real.


Nagin can be faulted for any number for any number of things. But he was dead right in his recent remarks. Everyone is praising Rudy and New York for hauling away some concrete -in 9 months- but damning Nagin and New Orleans for not rebuilding an entire city in just 3 months more. Frankly, it’s stupid.

Let’s see Rudy rebuild a city of a million people in 12 months THEN we can make comparisons.

But you want to change the topic and talk about the rescue effort? OK.

Let’s review, New York had emergency crews from several states who had nice pretty highways to drive on so they could lend a hand. In New York, the first responders had homes to go to so they could recover and work their next shift.

In New Orleans first responders themselves were under 8 feet of water. 80% of the police in New Orleans lost their homes.

What is that number in New York? That would be zero.

Comparing the two is simply folly. The only real backup the New Orleans first responders had was the Coast Guard who had choppers and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries who had boats. (BTW as an aside… The LDWF was the unsung hero of the whole event. They did thousands of rescues and never get any ink. I owe them a post… or 12)

By and large the Sept 11 “emergency emergency” (if you will) lasted a few hours. After that it was a mostly an unfruitful recovery effort. In New Orleans the active response went on 24/7 for almost 2 weeks. Again, no comparison.

In New York Rudy and the “incredibly competent” emergency management folks got 343 firemen killed… And a few hundred more emergency responders from the NYPD and other agencies too.

Rudy never had to answer any questions about that. (rightfully so BTW don’t get me wrong) But to hold the NYC response as a model of brilliance is letting patriotism blind you to reality. They had more than their share of problems… It’s just politically incorrect to mention them so we as a nation have chosen not to.

And let’s talk about those speeches Rudy was able to make. Why didn’t we see Nagin make those same speeches? For starters, there was no communication in the whole city.

Local authorities couldn’t talk to each other much less play to the camera! Rudy looked great standing there behind the podium in nice fresh clothes all shaved and bathed speaking on national T.V. I’m glad he had a nice clean studio he could retreat to.

In New Orleans people were trying to get food and water – oh and trying not to drown.

When Mayor Nagin could get thru to a T.V. camera, he used it to ask regular citizens with boats to meet him at a Sam’s Club parking lot so they could go pluck people off rooftops. He was a little too busy to do Larry King and David Letterman.

I’m not defending Nagin in any way.

What I am doing is explaining that the scope of the events was too dissimilar (and asymmetrical) for them to be compared in any meaningful way.

(and read the postscript before you comment)



Postscript: Yes, I fully expect to be called every name in the book over this post. Get over it. I know, I know I’ve broken some taboos by daring to question NYC’s response. So sue me.

Nagin was under a very harsh (cough partisan cough) spotlight even before the storm arrived. Rudy got mountains of patriotic sympathy. If the two men were in each other’s cities I doubt history would have changed much.

9/11 (whether you like it or not) was child’s play compared to the Corps flooding New Orleans. If you think Rudy making a few good speeches and getting some concrete hauled away was worth him being President then don’t let me rain on your parade with facts and reason.

But don’t try to convince me that Nagin is to be damned for not rebulding a major city in 12 months but Rudy should be praised for gettiing the debris hauled away in 9 months.

I just not buying it.

P.S. Don’t bother mention the evacuation.

P. P. S. If anyone wants to talk about the 60 Minutes quote, you’d be well served watching the video to get the context. He was making the point that the PUBLIC streets were clear but that they city could not go on private land w/o permission. When the reporter beat him up for not clearing the private land, Nagin compared the rebuiding efforts. And he had a point.

Lorie adds:I am sorry I don’t have time to respond to this post point by point right now, but I did want to say that Paul has more knowledge of Katrina than anyone I know, possibly of anyone in the entire blogosphere, and I have no dispute with him over the facts on the ground in New Orleans over the past year. When he asks whether others commenting on Katrina have a clue what they are talking about, well, we probably don’t, especially so far as the specifics go. What we do all have, though, is a view of the event that is not shaded so much by personal experience and intimate knowledge, but of what the perceptions are of how well each mayor inspired those working under them, and the public in general. In politics, perceptions are, unfortunately, as important as reality. Actually, often they are more important than reality.

I do know that after 9/11 Giuliani was judged (be it fairly as I contend or unfairly as Paul does) to have done an excellent job, more than anything, calming the fears of a nation. Paul talked about how much greater an area was affected by Katrina. That is physical. 9/11 was every bit as much a psychological attack, as it was a physical one, and it was on the entire country. I live in North Carolina and we have had some pretty nasty hurricanes hit us, but obviously nothing like Katrina. After Katrina, though, I was not consumed by fear that we might be hit next. When those planes hit those towers, though, the thought that other attacks might soon follow on one of the many military bases in my area was real, and remains so to this day when I hear a plane buzz over my house much lower than usual. During the 9/11 recovery I remember very real fears that additional attacks could be coming at any time.

There were many differences between the two challenges. I might be wrong, but I don’t recall getting around the clock reports letting us know that 9/11 attacks were on the way. I do seem to remember some advance warning that Katrina was coming, although it was not clear exactly where she would hit.

Those speeches that were made after 9/11 can be ridiculed by some, but they were incredibly important. I guess this goes back to the perception thing, but sometimes perceptions have very real consequences. Nagin cursing the government and making some of the outrageous statements he did making excuses for looters, etc., are separate from the reality of whatever he accomplished (or did not accomplish) on the ground. Paul points out that Nagin was not able to communicate freely, and I do not doubt that, but Nagin did make it to the microphone enough to sow seeds of panic and confusion. Maybe Rudy would have done the same, in Nagin’s situation, although that is something I am not buying. .Rudy calmed the nation by having a take charge style that made most feel like he had things under control, to the extent they could be. If 9/11 was an easier challenge, as Paul believes, he may be right, although his memory of 9/11 is evidently much different than mine. But even if that is so, it does not change the perception of the public of the two mayors’ responses to the those challenges. I contend that the perceptions that many of those in the nation have will do more to help Giuliani’s presidential aspirations than hinder them. I disagree with Paul in that I think those perceptions were largely deserved.

Paul Replies:I’m not really sure how to respond. The comparison is obviously fatally flawed.

If some people think Rudy’s speech making ability is worthy of putting in the oval office so be it. (Assuming he runs yada yada yada…) I may or might not vote for him… But if I do, his media blitz after 9/11 will be but a small factor. Did he handle it well? Sure. Obviously. Does he deserve the roses presently being thrown at his feet? Not to me but YMMV

Kevin adds (11:10PM): Wizbang is moving to a new server tonight. This means that any comments you leave in this thread tonight will be lost. You can keep commenting, but they won’t be in the comment section when you come looking again tomorrow…

Wizbang Podcast #35 is up
Friday Afternoon Link Fiesta

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