Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who did not seek re-election after Hurricane Katrina, said Thursday that all levels of government -- federal, state and local -- have missed the mark in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.
"It was so predictable," Blanco said. "Where was the oil going to go? It had no place to go but land. There definitely was a lack of response by all levels of government. That was the deja vu of Katrina.
"It would be nice to see all three levels of government dealing openly and honestly to solve the problem," Blanco, 67, said. "Part of the problem is when the problem is this big, the temptation is to point out blame."
Blanco, a Democrat, was in her first term as governor when Katrina hit Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005. After levees caved in, 80 percent of New Orleans was left flooded. In the chaos that followed, squabbles escalated between federal, state and local officials about the slow response.
Blanco and then-Mayor Ray Nagin were familiar sights on television, pleading for help from the administration of former Gov. George W. Bush.
After widespread public criticism, Blanco opted not to seek a second term in 2007 and was replaced by Republican Bobby Jindal. Jindal, and Plaquemine Parish President Billy Nungesser, find themselves in a Katrina-like situation, pleading with federal officials to help protect the Louisiana coast -- or allow the state to do so -- as masses of brown goo from the Deepwater Horizon spill wash into marshes and beaches, depriving fishermen of their livelihood and endangering the last protective barriers between urban areas and the Gulf.
Blanco said capping the spilling well is a "private-sector responsibility" and should be left in the hands of BP PLC, the oil industry and the complex technology that is involved. But the "real dysfunction" -- as Blanco called it -- has occurred in preparing for the oil to reach shore.
"All I hear is why isn't BP sending more booms, why isn't the federal government sending more booms. I say why isn't the state getting more booms," Blanco said. "In a crisis, I think you need to act and figure out the details later. It looks like they're arguing over who's going to pay for it and it's paralyzed people at the state and local levels."
Blanco said Jindal "cannot do it himself," but could have taken additional steps, such as authorizing deficit spending to obtain any equipment needed. "Act and send them the bill and fight over it later," she said.
The former governor also said an opportunity was lost by not using -- at least on an experimental basis on parts of the spill -- a swarm of new technologies that have been offered to BP to deal with the spill.
"They should have all been deployed," Blanco said. "Anything that looked like it had half of chance should have been deployed." As far as the federal government goes, Blanco said the focus was on BP's responsibility, although it was obvious that the oil would reach shore.
The missed lesson of Katrina? Blanco went back to the storm disaster, pointing out that lives were saved as the result of state and local action.
"There was no federal relief until after a week of trauma and stress," the former governor said. "That's the case in any disaster, the people on the scene are the ones who can physically do the most. Whether they like it or not, they have the responsibility."
On Thursday, five weeks into the spill, President Barack Obama sounded a defensive note, asserting his administration was in charge of the response to end the crisis.