Where's Rudy?

It now seems evident that state and local officials in New Orleans are not up to the task of dealing with the myriad of problems associated with hurricane relief and response (relief priorities and logistics, crime control, evacuation, etc.). And judging from the various Senators and other empty suits from the federal government who crossed my tv screen last night, it also appears that the feds are not going to provide much help either (Rep. Bobby Jindal was the only one that I saw who inspired any confidence in the slightest).

Given the mounting crisis nature of the situation, the best (only?) solution I can see is to bring in Rudy and put him in charge of coordinating relief efforts in New Orleans. From what I can tell, he is the only one with even the slightest potential of getting control over the situation and bringing order to the place. Call him a federal relief Czar or whatever, but get him down there and put him in charge asap.

Burt Likko (mail) (www):
...Thereby greasing the wheels for his 2008 bid for the Presidency. If Rudy isn't Bush's preferred successor, then you can rest assured this, like a hundred other excellent ideas well within the political grasp of the administration, will never, ever come to fruition.
9.2.2005 10:12am

Isn't the difficulty that Rudy isn't familiar with the Gulf Coast region? What made Rudy so effective post 9/11 was in part his deep knowledge and familiarity with NYC and its various leaders and needs. I'm not sure that this leadership automatically translates to another crisis in another part of the country.
9.2.2005 10:25am
chris (mail):

I'm surprised at this thinking from an economist. The problems in NO don't look to me like they are caused by lack of a key man. These things come down to local conditions. Seems to me the reason things are not working in NO and worked better in smaller but otherwise similar conditions in cities like Des Moines is that NO was, before Katrina, a fundamentally unhealthy city. Disfunctional culture, disfunctional police department and so on.

Other cities have actual evacuation plans. That is, when the evacuation is called, they have good estimates of who will not be able to get out, (prisoners, old people and so forth) and plans for who is supposed to get these people out or how they will otherwise be handled. They have plans for how order is going to be maintained, chains of command and so forth.

This flood has been predicted for years but the LOCALS essentially had no plan other than, "get out if you can, otherwise go to the Superdome." This is not a plan.

To expect that outsiders (FEMA or Guiliani) can come in and make everything from scratch without local knowledge and local competence is absurd.
9.2.2005 10:28am
I think the other thing that makes this different is the scale of the devestation. Rudy had to deal with a few dozen square blocks of destruction (Washington and the Pennsylvania countryside not being under his purview), where the fallout from Katrina is spread over hundreds or thousands of square miles.

If you can explain how Rudy would do something different from what is already being done, I'd like to hear it.
9.2.2005 10:29am
Holy (mail) (www):
The problem is different in kind from NYC, but I agree with Todd that lack of a visible leader (aside from Bush) is an issue. Maybe the problem is lack of press? In any case I think Blanco can afford to be more visible.
9.2.2005 10:34am
Matt Barr (mail) (www):
I take a back seat to no one in my admiration for Rudy, but in addition to Orin's point NYC also had an impressive disaster preparedness infrastructure and organization in place. Much of the credit for that goes to Rudy, who saw the 1993 WTC bombing for what it was, but neither he nor anybody else can obviously replicate that in New Orleans now.

As a symbolic gesture, it would show that the President appreciates the gravity of what's going on and is insisting on extraordinary efforts and measures. But symbolism would be particularly empty after days of no progress. The people there and the people and resources that can be spared elsewhere just need to go get it done.
9.2.2005 10:35am
countertop (mail):
In light of the disaster in New Orleans, Haley Barbor has managed the much more devastating impact in Mississippi with skill finese and leadership. Watch for him to become the new Rudy - and even more important, he can win the Republican Primary, something I doubt Rudy could deliver.

That said, Rudy does have some experience in the area - I recall from his book that early in his career he was sent down south somwhere (Alabama maybe?) by a judge to take over a large corporation that was in bankruptcy. He turned them around in no time and hearded them out of bankruptcy and back to profitability.
9.2.2005 10:57am
There is a real economic contribution Rudy himself made on 9/11 -- not anything he did or decided, but the confident resolve he projected. Confident leadership matters, in a very real sense, since it will encourage average people to cooperate with authorities and with each other. Rudy, FDR, and Churchill all understood this; Ray Nagin either does not or is not capable of pulling it off.

In economic terms, this is an iterated prisoner's dilemma. People in cities face routine choices to cooperate (sharing, maintaining order, waiting in line) or to defect (looting, panicking, shooting at helicopters). In 9/11, Rudy sent a powerful message that the authorities would continue to cooperate and that the iterated game would continue, with defectors being punished in future rounds. OTH, Ray Nagin and the NO Police sent an equally powerful message that the authorities might defect and were not capable of punishing defectors in future iterations. Thus, their actions influenced the behavior of people on the ground, making the situation worse.

At this point, I think it is too late to appoint Rudy -- the moment for confident leadership to influence the cooperation/defection decision has already passed, and he lacks the community ties to influence people's evaluation of future iterations. 40,000 National Guard troops with tough rules of engagement would be more appropriate.

I wonder also if the situation has been worsened by Bush's declining popularity/credibility -- after 9/11 he did project confidence and resolve, but after all the "mission accomplished" statements people will ignore his confidence. He is the opposite of the boy who cried wolf.
9.2.2005 11:17am
Shelby (mail):
Listening to the news last night, I heard multiple complaints from on-the-scene people that no one was in charge, that the buck kept getting passed from FEMA to the state to the locals and back again. I don't know if Rudy's the right person or not, but someone -- Bush, perhaps -- needs to take the five or so likeliest people into a room and pick one to be explicitly in charge. Even if it's not the ideal person, having a clear head and a chain of seems critical at this point (as it was two days ago).
9.2.2005 1:06pm
Bob Christensen (mail) (www):
Strength plays to strength much faster than strength fills the vacuum left by weakness. President Bush had the nearly perfect allies upon whom he could rely in NYC and NY State and, very importantly, the reverse was equally true. The strong local leaders made strong calls for exactly what they needed in the way of assistance. With that guidance, Pres. Bush was put in a position where he could both respond effectively and then exercise his own initiatives. In NO and LA that local stregth doesn't exist, both the governor and the mayor are absolute wimps, leaving the adminstration to invent its own responses without good information and without local leadership. The most effective way for Pres. Bush to respond in NO was to ignore the local guys. Unfortunately, for cultural and political reasons, that approach is much easier to take in a foreign country than in our own.
9.2.2005 2:07pm