New York Times columnist John Tierney attacked the Clinton administration for not pushing New Orleans to develop evacuation plans, claiming that under Clinton, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) "was too busy dealing with the record number of other 'disasters' that Clinton declared -- an average of one a week." But, while Clinton did declare more total disasters than any previous president, President Bush is on track to exceed Clinton's record in declaring national disasters, a fact not mentioned in Tierney's column.
In his September 20 New York Times column (subscription required), Tierney wrote:
FEMA had a golden opportunity to plan it during the 1990's. The threat of nuclear war had receded and terrorism wasn't yet a priority, so the agency's biggest concerns should have been an earthquake in California and a flood in New Orleans.
But it was too busy dealing with the record number of other ''disasters'' that Clinton declared -- an average of one a week, which meant FEMA was mailing out checks for every flash flood within range of a major media market. Upstate New Yorkers suddenly became incapable of coping with the cost of snow removal.
According to FEMA's website, Clinton declared 381 disasters over the 416 weeks (1993-2001) of his presidency -- an approximate rate of 0.92 disaster declarations per week. As of August 29, Bush has declared 247 disasters over the first 242 weeks of his presidency (2001-2004, plus 34 weeks of 2005) -- an approximate rate of 1.02 disaster declarations per week.