The New York Times is in full hysteria mode, trying to turn the human tragedy associated with Hurricane Katrina into political fodder for the Democrats. Paul Krugman is one cog in the Times’ wheel; on cue, he chimed in with a strident denunciation of the Bush administration’s response to the hurricane. It was, of course terrible; Krugman begins:
Each day since Katrina brings more evidence of the lethal ineptitude of federal officials. I’m not letting state and local officials off the hook, but federal officials had access to resources that could have made all the difference, but were never mobilized.
Characteristically, Krugman avoids facts whenever possible. His columns consist almost entirely of invective; he grudgingly throws in a fact only when it can’t be helped. Yesterday’s column included exactly one fact, one instance of a “resource” that “could have made all the difference,” but was “never mobilized.” Krugman’s one such example was the U.S.S. Bataan:
Here’s one of many examples: The Chicago Tribune reports that the U.S.S. Bataan, equipped with six operating rooms, hundreds of hospital beds and the ability to produce 100,000 gallons of fresh water a day, has been sitting off the Gulf Coast since last Monday – without patients.
Experts say that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are the crucial window during which prompt action can save many lives. Yet action after Katrina was anything but prompt. Newsweek reports that a “strange paralysis” set in among Bush administration officials, who debated lines of authority while thousands died.
So, according to Krugman, the Bataan, with its hospital and fresh water, constituted a resource that was “never mobilized,” apparently because of “paralysis” on the part of the administration. In citing the Bataan as his best example of federal ineptitude, Krugman relied, as he so often does, on an urban legend that circulated on left-wing blogs: that the Bataan, which had been cruising in the Caribbean when Katrina struck, was ready and able to aid the hurricane’s victims, but was prevented from doing so because the Defense Department never gave the order authorizing it to act. This rumor became so persistent that one of the ship’s officers, Lt. Commander Sean Kelly, wrote to one of the left-wing sites to debunk the myth:
USNORTHCOM was prepositioned for response to the hurricane, but as per the National Response Plan, we support the lead federal agency in disaster relief