There were quite a few systemic and ideological failures that led to the Katrina catastrophe. But for the next 3+ years, the personal will matter too. Unfortunately, the kind of person that George W. Bush is will make a difference is how our country responds to disaster.
Consider this from Newsweek (italics mine):
It’s a standing joke among the president’s top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president’s chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president’s early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.
If I ever were to be President–terrifying thought, that–I would be angry because someone hadn’t informed me earlier that thousands were dead. I would be angry because a major American city was drowning on my watch. I would be angry because a signficant part of our economic infrastructure had been badly damaged. And I would be angry because someone didn’t make it clear to me much earlier just how bad things could get (then again, I might actually read the occasional FEMA report).
I would not be angry over having to cut short my vacation. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people? Given that a category 3 storm would have caused problems, why wasn’t it clear from Saturday night on, that vacation time had come to an end?