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A storm of commentary

HURRICANE KATRINA is cause for sorrow and determination among editorial writers this morning, but it is also a test of the bedrock principles that they have always used to comprehend the incomprehensible and explain the inexplicable.

For the Wall Street Journal, the storm proves, yet again, the stupidity of most of the media; TV journalists, it notes, “were the only persons nuts enough to be anywhere near these destructive torrents.” According to the New York Times, the storm highlights the need for better government planning and more government spending; it advises the Senate “to restore some $70 million that the House, in a singular act of poor timing, slashed from the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget for the New Orleans district.” The Boston Globe finds its faith in both humanity (an orderly evacuation) and technology (accurate forecasts) reaffirmed: The survival of New Orleans shows “the marvels of a technologically advanced, affluent society.” It is USA Today that seems most at a loss over what to say -- so it says just about everything in an extraordinary 1,300-word editorial that pleads with New Orleans officials, residents and admirers to better prepare for the inevitable next storm.

Sometimes, of course, the best thing to say is nothing, the option chosen by the Washington Post (and this page) this morning. Closer to the eye of the storm, the truest observation, and most prophetic, may have come from Monday’s New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Getting through today will take great strength,” it said. “Picking up the pieces will take even more.”

Michael Newman

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