Monday, March 23, 2020

Haley Barbour: Lessons from Mega-Disasters

As our country confronts the coronavirus pandemic, there are lessons we can and should learn from previous mega-disasters.

Although Hurricane Katrina was far different from the COVID-19 pandemic in so many ways, the worst natural disaster in American history, which struck the Gulf Coast nearly 15 years ago, has powerful lessons for us today.

First, no government, however big and powerful, can solve every problem that may strike every household or business all the time. And, frankly, we shouldn’t want a government that powerful or expensive, or it would take away our freedoms.

As during Katrina, government has ramped up to respond to an unprecedented catastrophe. And, as with Katrina, there is criticism of governments’ decisions and efforts.

I recall vividly that during Katrina I was attacked for not being critical of the federal response. And, indeed, FEMA’s execution of its logistical plan failed. In fact, every government involved made mistakes, including the State of Mississippi, the government I led.

In a mega-disaster you are making it up as you go along. Decisions must be made, but some won’t produce the best outcomes. When that happens, you admit the decision needs to be changed and change it. Then move forward.

At the end of the day, the federal government did a whole lot more right than wrong during Katrina. Those actions were vital to our recovery and to the renewal of the Gulf Coast and south Mississippi. But don’t expect any level of government to be perfect, error-free.

During Katrina, I worked closely with President Bush who, like me, is a Republican. During the BP oil spill, I worked closely with President Obama, a Democrat. During disasters partisanship must be set aside to get things done. President Trump should be praised for doing more and more of that, for example, with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and GOP Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who have both taken practical, timely steps to help their citizens.

In a mega-disaster - - whether an unprecedented hurricane pushing the greatest storm surge recorded in the history of meteorology or a pandemic that might be the worst in the lifetime of anyone alive today -- families and businesses must be prepared or quickly learn how to reduce their risks. Because COVID-19 is a new strain doesn’t mean we can’t quickly learn to aggressively practice proper personal hygiene, self-quarantine, avoid crowds when you have to go to shop or eat and keep proper distances between you and fellow employees if you must go to work rather than work remotely, which is preferable. Of course, there are many more lessons, but these are easy to find. Indeed, with 24-hour news channels and digital sources inundating us, it is hard not to learn multiple ways to avoid contact with the virus.

Taking care of yourself, your family and your business won’t be easy, but you will learn and, in most cases, have probably already realized what you need to do. So, do it.

Another lesson from past mega-disasters is the importance of helping others, especially family, friends and neighbors who need our help.

My mother, who raised my two older brothers and me used to say, “Crisis and catastrophe bring out the best in most people; crisis doesn’t create character, crisis reveals character.” That was certainly the case in Mississippi during and after Katrina.

Neighbors, who had lost everything they had during the storm, afterwards were carrying food and supplies to the little old lady across the street who was a shut-in.

In the 12 months after the hurricane, 400,000 volunteers from out-of-state came to Mississippi to help clean up and rebuild. In the process, they registered with faith-based, non-profit or government organizations. By the fifth year, that number had risen to 970,000, many of whom returned time after time.

I remember talking to hundreds and hundreds of them. Their most common refrain was, “Governor, I feel like I got more out of this for myself than the good I did for the people I came to help.” Helping others who need help in dealing with or recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic is the very essence of the American way.

Obviously, the ways to provide assistance differ from a catastrophe like Katrina. With COVID-19 you check on people by phone rather than visiting with them in person. Call first, then leave a meal or medications at the front door. Adjust your method of contact, but learn to deliver the needed support or supplies.

Take care of yourself, your family and your business. But also make the effort to help others who might have trouble taking care of themselves during the pandemic. Be an example of my mother’s adage, “Crisis doesn’t create character; crisis reveals character.”

Haley Barbour is a former government of Mississippi, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and Founding Partner of BGR Group.


Anonymous said...

sage advice.

Anonymous said...

Good God. While BGR lobbyists are pounding on Senate doors for privileges and bailouts, probably "Covid Opportunity Zones" and tax breaks to buy condo and hotel stock, we have Haley, Ed, and Lanny coming up with cornpone Katrina ideas.

First, the Katrina playbook went out of season 15 years ago. Sort of like your political career.

Second, it's not lost on the American public that K Street ran down to Congress furiously demanding yet another chance to cash in on crisis. One that is costing lives worlwide. Senator Burr ring a bell?

Does Sen Paul, Liberaltarian, running around while infected (tested a week ago and knew he was likely infectious) ring a bell? Y'all have lunch, lately, Haley?

Sure, Haley, have the grandkids break out some KoolAid, swirl their arms in it to stir it up, and drop it off at St. Catherines? Just as long as it's at the doorstep, right?

Having watched you try to grasp the basic concepts of a pandemic like a dog staring at a TV test pattern, I figured you be sent out as the messenger boy for USCOC and the Kochs to spew some cornpone scientific stupidity.

Haley, just, shut up.

We are in the first inning of WWIII. And here you are with the Good Ole Boy schtick, wearing overalls after stepping out of the 5 grand suit. Spare us.

The lessons we learned from Katrina are that DC Lobbyists like you cash in. That Gulf Opportunity Zones were used to build condos at Tuscaloosa to watch football. That your buddies and family cashed in.

And, Haley, try to figure this out- this is sort of a Hurricane in every county in the US, but issuing the Hurricane Preparedness checklist and hoarding water and toilet paper is really, really, stupid. So is trotting you out with the tired ole "What's In It for Me and Big Bidness" routine.

So, enjoy the Dem (or, heck, Socialist) POTUS, Dem Senate, and Dem House in the fall. You, your buddies, Trump, who's to get tax breaks on his hotels, Senator Burr Et Al, will all have finished setting up "Covid War rooms" and cashing in. Which is leading to this.

Not that folks are watching or you'd ever give one shit about poor folks.

Anonymous said...

11:24 AM, see 12:11's comments, that is the real sage advice.

Anonymous said...

@12:11pm - Bravo.

Anonymous said...

In 2009 when the Sars virus ravaged the country, Obama and Biden didn't do a damn thing during the crisis and woefully prepared for the next disease which we are currently in. Just read a story that Obsma/Biden refused to restock the nation emergency supply of masks. They had 7 years to do it. SHAMEFUL

Anonymous said...

This is the most worthless person to give an opinion on this subject. Go back to your ill gotten mansion you sorry POS.

Anonymous said...

When did SARS ravage the US? I'm not a Dem, and don't play one on tv, but you guys do not miss a chance to take a shot at politicians, no matter what side of the fence you are sitting on.

Anonymous said...

Correction: It wasn't Sars under Obama. It was H1N1. 60 million Americans got this virus. 12,500 died. Obama/ Biden didn't do a damn thing to prepare for the next outbreak.

Anonymous said...

The best sage advice given by that Guv'nah during the Katrina aftermath:

"It's time to hitch up our britches".

15 years later, and I still don't know what that means.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:41: Still batting 1000% even if some of the facts are wrong and the conclusions are even more dubious! Care to opine if this is still a hoax like a certain stripe of important powerful kept insisting not too long ago?

Anonymous said...

It was the Sars and Bars thing that had more impact on us, than a Chinese bird flu back then.

Frank Griffin said...

Hearty thanks, 2:04.

When has there been a government that "prepared for the next outbreak"? Seriously.

Haley Barbour was a good governor who got a lot of votes from Democrats. As far as his actions after Katrina, I would love to have someone identify anyone, by name, who could have handled it better. Some of you nut jobs might experience the joys of enlightenment if you had the chance to spend an hour with Barbour and a fifth of his favorite Maker's Mark. Well, maybe a half pint, to make sure your enlightenment isn't artificially induced. (While I'm on the subject, how is it that liquor stores are considered "essential" stores in New York, but not in Mississippi?)

Stay healthy, folks.

Anonymous said...

Despite the above haters, I agree with former Gov. Barbour. No "one size fits all manual" exists for every crisis. Leadership matters. Character matters. Attitude matters. I sure am glad I cannot catch the hate that pours out of this site's blogs. Wonder what the pay off is to these people who are anti everything and hate so deeply?

Kingfish said...

Truth is we generally flub our initial response in crisis's. FEMA screwed up Katrina but it has been much better responding to natural disasters since then. Half the time in war we get our butts kicked right out of the gate (as did the Romans) but then we figure it out and move on.

I'm pretty sure when this is over, protocols and contingency planning will change and there will be a different response next time, and there will be a next time.

Anonymous said...

"It's time to hitch up our britches". 15 years later, and I still don't know what that means."

That's because when the bell rang for everybody to go out on the playground, you stayed in the room and practiced piano according to mommy's note pinned to your shirt.

Anonymous said...

But the liberal Democrats are trying to play politics with this situation.

Instead of agreeing to an unprecedented three trillion dollar package to help the sick, the hospitals, small and large business. Along with the unemployed workers and the self employed,.

Chuck and Nancy are holding out to any agreement over shit like solar panels for a 'green economy'.

Grandma may die.
But their priority is damn solar panels.

I hope their stalling is a wake call to their base.

Anonymous said...

@2:41, who said Covid-19 was a hoax? That sounds like some lie made up by Don Lemon or Rachel Maddow.

@Kingfish, why do you keep approving these delusional NPC leftist comments, but you wont approve replies to their seditious lies?

Anonymous said...

"Despite the above haters,"

Hate is the wrong word.
Disappointment is a better description.

I'm not trying to start a political argument, but Haley let a very large portion of this state down. ( Within days of waddling into the Governor's Mansion) .

Yeah, he was great during and after Hurricane Katrina.

But he screwed up more State Agencies than most people realize.
(And I won't say a word about all of the dangerous inmates he let loose).

Katrina is now a part of Mississippi history.

The 'virus" is now the the issue.

And thus far . . . Tate is handling it well.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, Super Left Winger and Kommmuhnist from West Virginia says: "Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said that the bill, which includes a huge $500 billion program for businesses, states, and cities makes the Senate look “more focused on the big corporations and the health of Wall Street than we are on the health care of the people in rural America and Main Street.”

The Trump administration would have wide latitude to disburse these loans and loan guarantees."

Hmmm. Trump and Dick Malvaney in charge of the handouts?


The horror. Dang Commies in West Va!

Anonymous said...

Haley is an expert in mega-disasters, if what we're talking about are economic development projects in Mississippi during his tenure.

Anonymous said...

Jesus himself walked the earth a perfect Man & no one believed in Him so why would we expect anything less. You get more with Honey than Vinegar and each of us is better than this. It is okay to disagree just be nice! Our healthcare workers & first responders are making live & death decisions that they certainly don’t want to make all over the world right now. WE ARE THE WORLD, WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD!

Anonymous said...

I remember how Hailey handled Katrina: by putting some of his relatives in key positions to make $$ from HUD and FEMA while his other rich friends in relatively un-impacted Jackson got low interest opportunity zone loans to renovate their offices. While churches and volunteers scrambled to provide food, medicine, and shelter to refugees. I don't want his advice.

Anonymous said...

Covid-19 won't be a Mega-Disaster, it will be a MAGA-Disaster.

Anonymous said...

You mean like the Kemper Maga-disaster? Maybe he can explain that one first.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Exactly the same principle. Everyone in government worrying about getting their share of the grease gets in the way of picking qualified people and doing things the right way.

Anonymous said...

haley, obama, illegal aliens and $$$...

Anonymous said...

the federal response to katrina in new orleans was a disgrace. no-one has ever been able to explain how a bunch of cheeseball news reporters like geraldo rivera, we able to beat the united states military down to all those people trapped in the city down at the convention center.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:18- What explanation do you need? The Bushies didn't give a sh*t about New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

9;18 posed a good question. the only explanation i ever heard was that W bush had the military busy ''liberating '' iraq. this country could invade iraq but not new orleans.

Anonymous said...

11:44 p.m. x 2.

Anonymous said...

12:11 - who the hell are Senator Burr, Ed and Lanny? Then you shoot of like a bottle rocket in the direction of Tuscaloosa and the Koch brothers. For God's sakes...throw out that spoiled wine.

Anonymous said...

This Mississippian is proud of Governor Barbour and his service .... there will always be haters ...bored, jealous individuals ...

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