All politics is local
John Tierney spreads around the blame for the debacle in New Orleans, and neither federal nor local officials are spared. The greatest lesson for cities, Tierney writes, is one they should have learned a long time ago: Never rely on the federal government:
In New Orleans, the mayor seemed to assume all that was beyond his control, just like the mayors in the 1960's who let the riots occur.
They said their cities couldn't survive without help from Washington, which proceeded to shower inner cities with money and programs that did more damage than the riots. Cities didn't recover until some mayors, especially Republicans like Rudy Giuliani, tried self-reliance.
Mr. Giuliani was called heartless and racist for cutting the welfare rolls and focusing on crime reduction, but black neighborhoods were the greatest beneficiaries of his policies. He was criticized for ignoring social services as he concentrated on reorganizing the Police and Fire Departments, but his cold effectiveness made the city a more livable place and kept it calm after Sept. 11.
Yet Mr. Bush, with approval from conservatives who should have known better, reacted to Sept. 11 by centralizing disaster planning in Washington. He created the byzantine Homeland Security Department, with predictable results last week.