Rudy, George ... Or Someone:

Not to belabor the point, but my point, and I believe Orin's point too, is that there appears to be a leadership vacuum in New Orleans right now. For the past few days it has seemed like no one is in charge, making tough decisions, setting priorities, ensuring accountability, etc. They seem to be simply paralyzed and just responding according to no coherent plan. So regardless of who gets put in charge, the point is that someone needs to be in charge. In part, I think this perception that no one is in charge helps to explain the violence, the video of looting police officers looting, and the rage by the victims that nothing seems to be happening. The point is not to assess blame on anyone, but to simply acknowledge the fact that there seems to be a leadership vacuum that has been generating paralysis and undermining morale among both rescuers and those to be rescued. (One Commenter stated that Haley Barbour is exercising leadership in Mississippi, but I haven't seen enough news coverage of what is happening there to express an opinion.)

I suggested (and still believe) that Rudy is the man to take over the situation in New Orleans, even though I acknowledge those Commenters who note that this is not his home turf and that he does not have the advantage he had in New York of having planned in advance for this. Nonetheless, my instinct is that if anyone could reverse the paralysis and fill the leadership vacuum, it is he. And it is not just public leadership (although as Orin notes, that is an important part of it), it is leadership over the whole process of responding to the situation, such as logistics, decision-making, and accountability.

If the Governor and the Mayor aren't up to the job, maybe Orin is right that by default it becomes the President's job. On the other hand, of course, given the President's other responsibilities, he cannot be the hands'-on guy collecting the information sufficient to make detailed hour-to-hour and day-to-day decisions, although he could provide a public leadership role. My understanding of the bureaucratic chain of command is that this is supposed to be FEMA's job, but FEMA has also demonstrated that it also is not up to the challenge. As I understand it from talking to people in the government, the way this is supposed to work is that FEMA is supposed to direct other federal agencies on how to allocate resources, but has fallen down badly on the job. If FEMA's director can't do the job, get someone in there who can.

Personally, I'm still willing to put Rudy in charge for at least the short term--better late than never. The Governor and the Mayor appear to be down for the count. From what I can tell, is no reason to believe FEMA can collect information about New Orleans logistics better than someone else could, and he sure as heck would provide greater leadership. But, more importantly, Rudy, George, or someone needs to be in charge and exercising both real and apparent leadership right now.

On the other hand, there are now scenes that things are getting back on track. So maybe someone, somewhere is starting to take control of the situation.