The Federal Emergency Management Administration uses a curious phrase in its website’s description of the agency’s role in responding to Hurricane Sandy:
The entire federal family continues to lean forward to support the states, tribes and communities in their ongoing response efforts as they work to save lives. We also continue to work with the entire emergency management team, including with our state, tribal and local partners, the voluntary and faith-based community, the private sector, and we continue to encourage the public to be safe and listen to the direction of their state, tribal and local officials.
We understand that those who are anxious to return home following the storm, but we are asking for everyone to be patient and to wait for directions from their tribal and local officials. There may be hazardsthat prevent you from being able to return home such as downed power lines, road closures, roads or bridges that are impassable, and traffic lights not working.
The cable network MSNBC has used the phrase “Lean Forward” as its slogan for well over a year, and the Obama campaign adopted the phrase “Forward” as their slogan earlier this year.
While CNN has been pushing the meme of the “praiseworthy” new and improved FEMA, it’s hard to see what the agency has actually delivered on the ground to the residents of Staten Island, New Jersey, and Long Island, where food, gas, electric power, and shelter shortages continue to persist. CNN’s article consists primarily of quotes from bureaucrats and politicians patting themselves on the back, without a word from the disgruntled victims of Hurricane Sandy suffering without food, power, and water:
“This is the all-new FEMA, and the leadership is very, very good, very focused,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “They’re doing an excellent job.”
Even in the highly charged political environment days before the U.S. elections, FEMA won plaudits from governors of both parties. New Jersey’s Chris Christie, whose state bore the brunt of the storm, told CBS News on Tuesday that “cooperation has been great with FEMA here on the ground,” while Delaware’s Jack Markell told CNN that people in his state have been “really, really impressed by the response of FEMA.” Christie is a Republican; Markell, a Democrat…
The agency is now aimed at “leaning forward,” moving supplies like food, water, generators, blankets and cots into an expected disaster zone ahead of time, said Lockwood, the deputy emergency management director in New Hartford, Connecticut.
The FEMA policy may be to “lean forward,” to advance the notion that they’ve established a rapid-response inventory delivery system, but most of those previously staged critical supplies have yet to make it to Staten Island, New Jersey, and Long Island.
Sounding like a typical bureaucrat comfortable in the world of creating red tape, FEMA Administrator Fugate unsuccessfully attempted to explain why his agency’s vaunted “leaning forward” strategy had failed to deliver any actual on the ground assistance –food, water, or power generators–to desperate residents of Staten Island for three full days after Hurricane Sandy hit:
President Obama appeared with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Wednesday and promised to cut away all the bureaucratic red tape that he anticipated might slow down emergency responses to Hurricane Sandy: “We are not going to tolerate red tape, we are not going to tolerate bureaucracy.”
Increasingly, however, the Obama administration’s weak response on the ground to Hurricane Sandy is being looked at as not much different from the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina seven years ago in New Orleans.
The main difference?
The mainstream media is focused on the press conferences held by the Obama administration and politicians while under-reporting the recovery failures on the ground.