FEMA -- a Four-Letter Word?

The only quiz in the world that will tell you if you're an apologist for the Bush administration's Hurricane Katrina response

Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans on Aug. 29, breaching the levees that protect the city from Lake Pontchartrain and flooding most of it; the storm also inundated huge swaths of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. As a horrified country saw one of its cities virtually disappear under water, news crews broadcast images that seemed out of place in modern America: abandoned corpses floating down the streets, armed looters controlling entire sections of the city, as many as a million displaced residents struggling to get out alive. First reports placed the estimated death toll in the thousands and the damage at more than $200 billion, quickly ensuring Katrina's place as the most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history. The Bush administration placed the Department of Homeland Security, overseeing the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in charge of the response, but many have accused federal officials of moving far too slowly in dealing with the aftermath. President Bush, who was on vacation when the hurricane hit, at first backed embattled FEMA director Michael Brown, but then accepted his resignation on Sept. 12, saying that he himself accepted full responsibility for the mistakes that were made. Are you an apologist for the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina? Take our quiz and find out!


1) It took President Bush five days after Katrina hit to visit the disaster zone; before returning to Washington after his five-week vacation in Crawford, Texas, he swung through California to make a pro-war speech. When Bush did arrive, his initial comments struck an odd tone, as he recalled his partying days in the Big Easy and lamented the loss of one of Sen. Trent Lott's homes in Mississippi, which he vowed to rebuild, adding that he "looked forward to sitting on the porch someday." What does this response indicate to you about the president's understanding of the situation?

A) You know, George, there was more to New Orleans than the late-night show at Tipitina's.

B) Let's be fair: Who wouldn't want to sit on Trent Lott's porch? I mean, unless you're black ....

C) Hey, it's always tough to know whether to end your five-week vacation in order to better supervise the relief effort for the biggest natural disaster in the country's history. It's not like the job of president comes with a manual or anything.

2) Does the administration's response to Katrina make you less confident about the nation's ability to withstand another terrorist attack?

A) Sure. We can predict hurricanes.

B) This is not a fair test of our country's readiness. Do you really think, under normal circumstances, that terrorists would attack us when Bush is on vacation?

C) Oh, please. Terrorists can't control hurricanes. (Bonus point for adding: "Or can they?")

3) In an emotional interview on CNN in the immediate wake of the flooding, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin blasted federal relief efforts; after telling audiences that President Bush flying over in Air Force One did not do the disaster justice, he sent out an SOS message to anyone in government who would listen: "Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country." What does this extraordinary moment tell you about the relationship between state and national officials?

A) Well, we can only hope the Department of Homeland Security was tuned in.

B) You know, Giuliani never would have said "goddamn." (Bonus point for adding: "Or 'asses.'")

C) Everybody calm down. Larry King's been sending out an SOS on CNN every night for the past 20 years, and nobody's saved the poor bastard.

4) Those who have argued there might have been a racial component to the administration's handling of the crisis point to controversial comments by the president's mother just days after the hurricane. In praising the hospitality of the Houston residents who absorbed the first wave of Katrina refugees, Barbara Bush told reporters: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." What's your response to that quote?

A) Well, gosh, thanks for rubbing it in, Babs. When was the last time you slept in the Astrodome?

B) No, it doesn't mean she's a racist, privileged, horribly out-of-touch elitist. She's just a bitch.

C) C'mon, give her a break. After all, the White House is no palace.

5) Many local and national elected officials have charged that the chaos in the first few days after the hurricane hit could have been prevented with a greater military presence. Some have speculated that the ongoing war in Iraq might have impacted the number of troops available here. Do you think the armed forces were spread too thin to respond appropriately to Katrina?

A) I have a hard time believing that our soldiers deployed in Iraq would have made an appreciable difference. The soldiers in Afghanistan, however ....

B) That's a ridiculous, baseless charge. What good is the Army against looters?

C) Look, if there's one aspect of governance in which this administration has proved itself exemplary, it's military planning and readiness. Let's not question the White House on that score.

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