Government Failed The People

Victims of Hurricane Katrina wait for food and water and an opportunity to be evacuated in the downtown area of New Orleans on Friday, Sept. 2, 2005. A huge military presence has arrived in the city, restoring order and bringing with them food and water to feed the thousands of victims of the storm. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) AP

Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
A personal thought. We have come through what may have been one of the worst weeks in America's history, a week in which government at every level failed the people it was created to serve. There is no purpose for government except to improve the lives of its citizens. Yet as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality.

As the floodwaters rose, local officials in New Orleans ordered the city evacuated. They might as well have told their citizens to fly to the moon. How do you evacuate when you don't have a car? No hint of intelligent design in any of this. This was just survival of the richest.

By midweek a parade of Washington officials rushed before the cameras to urge patience. What good is patience to a mother who can't find food and water for a dehydrated child? Washington was coming out of an August vacation stupor and seemed unable to refocus on business or even think straight. Why else would Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert question aloud whether New Orleans should even be rebuilt? And when he was unable to get to Washington in time to vote on emergency aid funds, Hastert had an excuse only Washington could understand: He had to attend a fund-raiser back home.

Since 9/11, Washington has spent years and untold billions reorganizing the government to deal with crises brought on by possible terrorist attacks. If this is the result, we had better start over.

For those who wish to make donations to the relief effort, you can call the American Red Cross at 1 (800) HELP NOW, which is 1 (800) 435-7669. CBS News will have continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


By Bob Schieffer
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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