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Eye Opener: Obama Administration and Katrina

By Ed O'Keefe

It's been four years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! Four years ago today New Orleans "resembled a warzone" as it continued the cleanup and evacuations following Hurricane Katrina. This past weekend, President Obama devoted his radio and Internet address to the ongoing recovery efforts.

Though his remarks lacked specifics, but Obama said he will not tolerate "red tape that stands in the way of progress, or the waste that can drive up the bill. Government must be a partner -- not an opponent -- in getting things done."

Obama said he will visit New Orleans later this year to assess the progress. Last week he earned praise from Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) for what he called a more practical and flexible approach.

During last year's campaign, Obama cited the Bush administration's handling of the Katrina aftermath as one of its failures and vowed to avoid similar mistakes as president. Part of his approach includes sending administration officials to the region regularly, with already 30 visits completed by 11 Cabinet secretaries and other senior administration officials. There've been 20 visits to Louisiana, four to Mississippi, three to Alabama and three to Houston, where many New Orleans residents went after the storm. Not surprisingly, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan have visited most often to assess recovery and rebuilding projects operated bytheir departments. Here's the full list, including dates and locations (Note: Not all of the viists were directly tied to Katrina-related efforts):

March 5-6: FEMA Administrator-Designee Craig Fugate in New Orleans
March 6: Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano in New Orleans
March 6: HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in New Orleans
March 6: Napolitano in Biloxi, Miss.
March 6: Donovan in Houston
March 12-13: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Houston
March 18-19: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in New Orleans
March 20: Education Secretary Arne Duncan in New Orleans
March 27: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Houston
April 8: Salazar in New Orleans
April 14: Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Fort Rucker, Ala.
May 10: Donovan in Birmingham, Ala.
June 14-15: Fugate in New Orleans and Baton Rouge
June 22: Donovan in New Orleans
June 30: U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in New Orleans
June 30: SBA Administrator Karen Mills in New Orleans
June 30: President and Chairman of Export-Import Bank of the U.S. Fred Hochberg in New Orleans
July 6: Donovan in Birmingham, Ala.
July 19: Napolitano in Biloxi, Miss.
July 19: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in Biloxi, Miss.
July 19: Fugate in Biloxi, Miss.
July 20: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in Reserve, La.
July 20: Sebelius in Reserve, La.
July 20: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Reserve, La.
July 20: Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in Reserve, La.
July 22: HRSA Director Mary Wakefield in Baton Rouge, LA
July 27-30: Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry in New Orleans
July 27-30: VA Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration John U. Sepúlveda in New Orleans
August 4: HHS Director of the Office of Women’s Health Dr. Wanda Jones in New Orleans
August 11: Shinseki in New Orleans

What do you think of the Obama administration's recovery efforts thus far? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cabinet and Staff News: Supreme Court to revisit "Hillary: The Movie." Kathleen Sebelius says "no one really" has an immunity to swine flu. SBA Administration Karen Mills says (shocker!) the stimulus is helping... small businesses.

'Pulling a Sickie' in the UK: A British study finds that absenteeism is down in the workplace amid recession-driven job loss fears. "There was a clear gap between the private sector, where absenteeism levels are falling sharply, and the public sector. On average, private sector employees take 6.4 days off a year compared with 9.7 days in the public sector." Do you know if it's the same in the USA? Leave thoughts in the comments section below or E-mail The Eye.

Interrogations Probe Political, Cheney Says: The former vice president accused President Obama of setting a "terrible precedent" by allowing an "intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration."

It's Never a Quick Fix at the CIA: One writer has learned that high-profile investigations will not transform human nature, turning intelligence officials -- or the presidents and White House aides who direct them -- into angels, unsusceptible to zeal and folly.

Ex-Intelligence Officials Cite Low Spirits at CIA: The former third-ranking official at the agency says "Morale at the agency is down to minus 50."

Ignoring Your Census Form Is a Pretty Costly Decision: The Post's Michelle Singletary writes that "...for those who are still inclined to ignore the decennial count for whatever personal reason or history or preposterous political agenda...I want to appeal to your pocketbook."

Southwest Presents Dilemma for FAA: Should the agency force the airline to ground the planes to enforce longstanding air-safety rules, even though the violations don't pose an immediate danger?

Smoking in The Military: An Old Habit Dies Hard: A proposal to make the forces smoke-free is drawing strong reactions from troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the Pentagon itself says any ban is a long way off.

Report: Defense Review Should Set Energy Reduction Targets: Brookings scholars note that DOD consumes more energy in the course of its daily operations than any other single entity and more than 100 nations.

High-Tech Plans to Change Airplane Traffic: FAA's plans to revamp air traffic include new technology that steers it on autopilot along a smoothly descending, satellite-guided path, avoiding the stair-step approach and constant interplay with air traffic controllers now required to bring in planes.

By Ed O'Keefe  | August 31, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Administration, Eye Opener  
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What do you think of the Obama administration's recovery efforts thus far?

Outreach is great.
Then Rahm-a-tolla....for freezing regs.

"red tape that stands in the way of progress, or the waste that can drive up the bill. Government must be a partner -- not an opponent -- in getting things done."'s in the Code.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | August 31, 2009 7:00 AM | Report abuse

why did you even bring up Cheney?
Just saw the CNN interview too.

And he believes he's a patriot that can still save the world.
No. My generation is.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | August 31, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

The greatest loss in the USA: The loss of confidence caused by government that is NOT for the people and NOT by the people.
The stimulus has been used and abused by the very same businesses that caused the crisis. How is that process going to create confidence?
America is waiting for a national reformation. We long to be a great people ... but what we get is business as usual, business driven by the same "good ol' insiders club. What we need is a vision for the next generation.
Want a real stimulus package? ... give every tax paying citizen a stimulus of $20,000 ... stimulate from the bottom up rather than trust in the failed trickle down theory.
What we hear nothing about tells us everything. The next college generation,
the generation we must depend on for our survival, is totally mortgaged off to the banks through Private "KEY" Education loans ... and to the national debt.
Recovery ... hope ... vision for the future? Not likely under the crushing load of student and national debt ...

We need a new vision ... and we aren't going to get it with old eyes blurred by
the cigar smoke billowing out from backroom deals.

Posted by: swickkg | August 31, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

that is great that all these officials took a trip to the region. Have they actually accomplished anything other than racking up travel expenses?

Posted by: loudountaxrevolt | August 31, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

It's been four years folks! Time to move on and quit expecting the federal government to subsidize people who choose to live in unsafe areas. They should have either got buyouts for their homes or grants to fix them up long before now. This should be a state and local problem now.

Posted by: bigtom6156 | August 31, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand AT ALL why the ONLY THREE visits to Alabama were to non-coastal Birmingham and Fort Rucker, instead of to the areas of coastal Alabama that were devastated by Katrina- Bayou le Batre and Coden, and the state's barrier island, Dauphin Island-
THERE WAS NO KATRINA DAMAGE IN BIRMINGHAM OR FORT RUCKER-BUT PLENTY, PLENTY, PLENTY IN THE AREAS MENTIONED ABOVE. Why in the Sam Hill did they not visit the parts of Alabam that were hurt so terribly by Katrina????????? Alabama has been and continues to be the largely ignored "red headed step child"-example-even though it is an important link in the chain of the coastal barrier islands being fixed by the government-[look at the chain of islands on the map] Dauphin Island is NOT getting any help- unlike Mississippi's and Louisiana's part of the chain- and as is wisely said- a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link- doesn't make any sense to me.
Doesn't make any sense to me AT ALL!

Posted by: justmemyself | August 31, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The Gulf Coast will recover quicker when people can get there, spend money, and move on.

Mississippi water front casinos and other tourist attractions need more visitation. The President should take Amtrak to New Orleans, and then try to get to Florida. Just putting Amtrak's Sunset Limited back between New Orleans and Jacksonville will add perhaps six or seven tourist starved locations to the over 500 places people can travel on Amtrak.

CSX opened the line for freight four years ago. The Bush Administration used Katrina as an excuse not to restart the train. If the Obama Administration was elected for anything, it was NOT for four more years of the Bush gang.

Just restart the Sunset, and see the impact fresh money and fresh attitudes have on Katrina recovery.

Recovery won't be complete until the Sunset is running along the Gulf Coast. Daily.

Posted by: rfriedma | August 31, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

There really isn't any place to begin, from the time Katrina was leveled a national disaster New Orleans was already under 4ft. of water. We can only predict why with a new national emergency alert, and the newly appointed Homeland Security that the disaster warning took 3 days to be issued? My educated guess is that Homeland Security had just become operational, and had been given the orders to also head the national alerts in case of natural disaster, Sec.Ridge did not even have an office, and he had not been briefed on the standard of protocol by his head Vice-president Cheney. Homeland was know chief of all alerts, including, national weather, which would have given the alert, but had to wait for approval from Homeland. That's not the issue, what people are still in the dark about is why didn't Vice-president Cheney take a briefing from Sec. Ridge when the levies failed. If Sec. Ridge didn't know what the level of depth of his obligation was then what happened to that briefing? Was that protocol? Or collateral? Can the Vice-president call a briefing concerning national security, while the president is indisposed until such time that the president can be in contact. These were the issues that Homeland faced. And those answers are... protocol.

Posted by: edtroyhampton | August 31, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

If you want to know what happened in N.O. get a copy of the August 2004 National Geographic. The article pointed out exactly what actually happened... one full year before it did! I think it also said that in about 40 years, N.O. would be too far gone to save.
Secondly, just exactly where in the constitution does it give the government the right to spend our money on this or any of the other bail-out type spending that they're doing?

Posted by: oldpilot | September 1, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse
"...the defining moment for FEMA, the government agency which is theoretically in charge of such catastrophes came on Thursday night. Ted Koppel was interviewing the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, about why more wasn't done to help the 20,000 people stuck inside the sweltering Convention Center since Monday. Brown confessed that they didn't really know about the situation in the Convention Center until Thursday, at which point Koppel said in anger, "Don't you people watch television? Don't you listen to the radio?"
And from Mr. Brown: "I don't believe it's the job of the federal government to provide ice for people to keep their diet Cokes cold", while medics begged for ice to keep stranded folks' medications cold before they went bad in the heat, and to try to treat heat prostration.

Posted by: herbop | September 2, 2009 4:09 AM | Report abuse

"It's been four years folks! Time to move on and quit expecting the federal government to subsidize people who choose to live in unsafe areas. They should have either got buyouts for their homes or grants to fix them up long before now. This should be a state and local problem now.
Posted by: bigtom6156 | August 31, 2009 10:36 AM"
Which grants, and which buyouts for what unsafe areas? There is no money for...
- Ohio valley - floods & tornadoes?
- Midwest - floods & tornadoes?
- Mississippi valley - floods & tornadoes?
- Northeast - floods & hurricanes?
- Southeast - floods & hurricanes?
- Southwest - droughts & wildfires?
- Northwest - floods, droughts & wildfires?
Given that we are all Americans, together, which areas of the country do you want us to depopulate?

Posted by: herbop | September 2, 2009 4:29 AM | Report abuse

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