Thursday, September 15


William F. Buckley has a column in the Op-Ed section of today's "Houston Chronicle" (registration required) that debunks the widespread charges of racism leveled aginst President Bush by elements of the mainstream media, both here and overseas, for the federal government's halting response to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

WFB writes:

Critics of President Bush may by their excesses be undermining not him, but the weight of sound thought.

Do you believe that a helicopter looking for men and women in desperation would give preferred treatment to someone whose hands flailed for help because those hands were white, not black? No doubt that consanguinity plays a role in human affinities (that's why Ebony magazine features black models), but it is blasphemous to suppose that organized official aid discriminated in New Orleans against blacks.

If the sequence were parsed in a particular way, such a conclusion would be encouraged, but not warranted. A: The poorer sections of town were the least accessible. B: The poorer sections of town were the most densely inhabited by blacks. C: Therefore, blacks received the least aid. That sequence, posing as a syllogism, is fraudulent if made to add up to racial prejudice.

If every black citizen of New Orleans who was unable or unwilling to evacuate the city in advance of Katrina had been white, and if every black citizen of New Orleans who would be classified as poor (or destitute) had been white, the same fate would have befallen ten of thousands of whites that befell tens of thousands of blacks. And had this been the scenario and given Mayor Ray Nagin's performance preceding, during, and after this epic natural disaster, would it have been appropriate to label him a racist? Of course not! Incompetent and unprepared, yes; racist, no!

The race card has no place in the post-mortem analysis of the unsatisfactory response of three levels of government (local, state and federal) in providing hurricane relief aid and emergency responders. To invoke race as an issue is just patent demagoguery and a red herring that serves no purpose other than to divert attention from what appear to be the most serious issues: which levels of government and what departments/agencies are responsible for precisely what in a crisis ("who has the ball?"); how do local, state and federal government agencies interact in crises and who, if anyone, has the final say; what are the key priorities during each stage of a crisis; what can citizens reasonably expect from their government and in what timeframe; and what must citizens do on their own, if they're able, to protect themselves?

President Bush will address the nation tonight and accept responsibility for the shortcomings of the federal response to Katrina.

When will the race-baiters own up to their culpability in exacerbating an already bad situation and advancing dissension and disharmony, rather than cooperation and an American "can do" attitude?