This was something even I had completely missed in all the hyperventilated coverage over New Orleans. Why haven't we heard similar histrionic coverage about Mississippi? They were the ones who got bullseyed by the hurricane, not Louisiana. Why aren't we hearing about even more disastrous incompetence there?:
The buildings in New Orleans are still standing; the Gulf Coast of Mississippi basically has been scrubbed, like God took out a pencil eraser and just erased it.
I really don't like to find fault at times like this, but one thing that was missing was a quick recognition that in such a situation the potential for civil collapse is nearly 100%. Once the weather settles, you need to immediately declare marshal law and send in the MPs. That's basically what Haley Barbour did in Mississippi - there were a few early problems but very quickly the MPs were patrolling what was left of Biloxi and Gulfport and keeping a lid on things. Back on Tuesday when I put on the news and we all saw Kathleen Blanco bursting into tears, I knew that was the wrong message and would bring trouble. Louisiana and New Orleans basically have those touchy-feely, "I'm okay, you're okay" soft-leftie types in charge. Their education took a few days and has been expensive.
Actually, I don't chalk up this blind spot in the MSM's coverage to any sort of political bias. "If it bleeds, it leads" has been and always will be a bulwark of popular media. Devastated but otherwise quiet streets patrolled by competently-lead troops just don't have the same sass as corpses floating down Borboun street and boat-borne shootouts below the Pontchartrain levee, don't ya know?
There's also the "hammer" problem*. Since the national media have taken over the story, they see it as a national problem which needs a national solution. I really believe it has simply never ocurred to them to ask why state and local authorities, the people who must be on the ball in the first three days of any crisis of this magnitude, have so publicly dropped it in such a spectacularly disastrous fashion. We hear constantly about Bush administration failures without anyone even once asking why, for example, a city with a comprehensive and well-regarded public transportation system (as New Orleans has had for decades) had apparently no plan whatever to use it as an evacuation tool. Or why the governor, who is explicitly responsible for commanding national guard troops within state borders, was quite patently unable to do so effectively within any sort of reasonable timeframe.
Disasters aren't just federal problems. As much as the "controls everything, must control everything, proper to control everything" popular center-left perception of the federal government is, there are normally at least three other types of government authority out there to assist: state, county/parish, and municipal. When properly run, they will be both faster and more effective than anything a ponderous national entity can manage, especially in the short term. When they're mismanaged and poorly run? Well, the other thing I continue to find amazing is how the MSM seems to have turned a blind eye to Louisiana's and New Orleans's well known and deserved reputations as the most corrupt and poorly managed governments in the country.
I think the contrast with Mississippi is indeed quite instructive, and the comment "So I hope you're Watching Mississippi. Highly recommended - we may have found our next President out of this (you heard it here first)" quite intriguing indeed. Nice to see a state better known for keeping Arkansas off the bottom of most lists getting things right when it really counted.
Via Jason, who also has several good articles you should check out before you ask the "obvious" questions here.