There's no doubt that the response to Katrina came far too late and too ineffectively, and that the Federal Government bungled it's part of it badly. Few debate that.
What's really annoying me at this point is that there are people who are making this a case for limited government. I agree that nobody should look at this situation, and take faith in this big government on its account, but I don't think it represents an inherent failing of the strong government response.
The reason we can say this, is that we have few complaints about the handling of the rounds of epic disaster that occured during the Category 4 Hurricane Hugo or the vast Mississippi floods. The people in Clinton's FEMA knew that their job was taking care of business, and they did so, and won bipartisan praise for that.
The myth about Democrats and Liberals like myself is that we love bureaucracy. In all actuality, we love results, and bureaucracies of appropriate size to maintain them. To suggest that we go to the state and local officials (or even private businesses) to bear the greatest burden of disaster response, is to ignore a crucial aspect of disasters of such scale- their overwhelming nature. That is not to say that local and state officials should not put their plans together, nor prepare supplies and whatever else is needed to deal with the worst of a disaster's onslaught. That is not even to discourage the open cooperation of businesses in helping disaster victims. That is to say that we should not count on ourselves to be that lucky, to expect the resources for preparation and recovery to survive disasters locally.
To use the negligence and unprofessional behavior of FEMA and other disaster handlers who were supposed to help the victims of Katrina as a excuse to pull back the federal government from supporting locals in these hard times is to justify laziness on the basis of irresponsibility, as well as add grave insult to grave injury.
I think the worst thing about these attitudes towards Federal government in today's world is that it creates an atmosphere of low expectations, coupled with an internal culture of negligence that develops because those inside the still existing government Bureaucracy don't feel the need to do their jobs right. Why, if you don't believe it's supposed to work, why make it work? This disrespect for the business of government becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People must at least believe in the responsibilities they are given, if not not the decision to have those given to them. America may or may not need a government of our size, but it does not need half-hearted government from those who seek their offices, knowing they won't give it their all.