Feeling Abandoned In New Orleans

Gloria Jordan sits on the front porch where her home once stood in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Thursday Feb. 16, 2006.
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

I'm glad Washington got to see those tapes of government video conferences that showed government officials from the top down were warned that Hurricane Katrina held the potential for catastrophe yet did nothing but watch it happen.

But didn't we know that already? That the huge bureaucracy cobbled together after 9-11 was a monumental flop? That political hacks performed like political hacks?

Yes, it was a disgrace, but after two days in New Orleans I'm convinced we have to stop the tape and go live.

The people of New Orleans I talked to feel abandoned by government at every level and forgotten by the rest of the country. But their worry is NOW. What happens next? Are the levees really going to hold next time? Will they ever collect on their flood insurance? Will they ever get their schools open again? Only 20 of more than a hundred and twenty are open.

As government bureaucracies and Congress wrangle over who's to blame, there is still no real plan about what to do.

What we do know is the next hurricane season is less than three months away. Sheriff Jack Stevens of nearby St. Bernard Parish, whose entire 140 person force is living in trailers, told me the other night, "no one knows what will happen if we get another big one. We're hanging on by our fingernails."

Can't we keep the tape recorder off long enough to think about that?

E-mail Face the Nation.

By Bob Schieffer