Reality impairment isn't just for FEMA directors. MS Governor Haley Barbour is suffering from it as well, and needs to be called on it more directly by the press. (For that matter, so does Sen. Trent Lott.
See why after the jump...
Gov. Barbour on Meet the Press
Saturday night before this storm hit, the head of the National Hurricane Center called me and said, "Governor, this is going to be like Camille." ... Well, Tim, Katrina was worse than Camille. It was worse than Camille in size. It was worse than Camille in damage. And so we've had a terrible, grievous blow struck us.
But my experience is very different from Louisiana, apparently. I don't know anything about Louisiana. Over here, we had the Coast Guard in Monday night. They took 1,700 people off the roofs of houses with guys hanging off of helicopters to get them. They sent us a million meals last night because we'd eaten everything through. Everything hasn't been perfect here, by any stretch of the imagination, Tim. But the federal government has been good partners to us. They've tried hard. Our people have tried hard. Firemen and policemen and emergency medical people, National Guard, highway patrolmen working virtually around the clock, sleeping in their cars when they could sleep. And we've made progress every day.
But the AP is telling a much different story in Bay St. Louis, MS, down on the Gulf Coast:
MS Motels Under Miserable Conditions
From one motel to the next, the conditions are the same -- hot, smelly, soggy and dark. Toilets won't flush. Water won't run. Boredom won't end. Carpets are caked in mud and the concrete outside is often more inviting than the beds in the fetid rooms.
Just off Interstate 10 near Bay St. Louis, at what used to be a Waffles Plus restaurant and motel, Joanna Dubreuil and her two sons are luckier than most. Within the wreckage that surrounds them is an artesian well. The pump was carried away, so water now gurgles nonstop from a white plastic pipe jutting from the ground.
Dubreuil washes sheets in it but, fearing contamination, tries to keep a toddler from drinking it.
Ten people are living at the Waffles Plus, where vehicles passed by for five days without stopping. On the sixth morning, a church group pulled in and handed them a box of food -- the first they had received.
Jimmy Dubreuil, 23, had tried earlier in the week to enter a Dollar Store several miles away but says he was chased out by a police officer who pistol-whipped him. A fresh gash on his close-cropped head has been stapled shut.
"They started telling us we're thieves," he says. "We're not thieves. We just wanted to feed the babies."
Despite the discomfort, guests like Noel Rowell stay put. He has no gas and no money, so he, his girlfriend and three children do the only thing they can: "We're sitting back, waiting for the United States of America to take care of us."
It is unclear when emergency officials will be able to help stuck guests leave, by providing gas or a ride. Until then, they rely on each other.
Barbour thinks the federal government "has been good partners to us."
Maybe he should tell that to Noel Rowell.