The Constitution is Finished: Not the US One, the Atlanta One

September 7th, 2005 12:20 PM
Normally, I don’t comment on the columns of Cynthia Tucker, Editorial Page Editor of the Atlanta Constitution. It isn’t worth it. But she has finally jumped the shark.

To prove that the “poor are on [their] own,” she cites this article:

“In fact, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune used just those words to describe the hurricane evacuation plan authorities put in place for residents who didn't own cars. Reporter Bruce Nolan wrote in July, ‘City, state and federal authorities are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own. In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.’ ”

“At least Nagin and his fellow city officials were trying to figure out how to get the poor out of town if disaster struck. Working with an anti-poverty agency and the Red Cross, they envisioned a private initiative, Operation Brother's Keeper, in which churches would enlist members with cars to offer rides to the have-nots.”


For starters, Tucker has violated the first rule of Journalism 101: get the facts right. There was a Louisiana Disaster Plan, prepared in 2000, that says in paragraph 5 on page 13 that public buses should be used to evacuate those who don’t have, or can’t afford, private transportation.

It was the duty of Mayor Nagin to get those buses rolling. He didn’t. More than enough buses to evacuate the remaining 100,00 people from New Orleans even AFTER Hurricane Katrina had passed the city and gone north, sat in their lots untouched until the break in the 17th Street Canal flooded the City, the buses, the homes, and killed upwards of 10,000 people.

The taped messages Ms. Tucker cites as evidence of the neglect of the poor, is instead evidence that the Mayor was grossly ignorant of the Plan to use the buses. The closest of the now-flooded bus parking lots, by the way, was a mere 1.2 miles from the Dome, according to aerial photographs. But who are you going to believe, Cynthia Tucker or your lying eyes?

Once upon a time, the Atlanta Constitution was a great newspaper. I had the privilege of meeting Ralph McGill, its late great Editor. In 1964, he told me and the other editors of the Yale Daily News, “I don’t write my newspaper for people who move their lips when they read.”

Now it is the opposite. Tucker’s editorial columns pile racial bigotry on a base of factual ignorance. She is counting on her readers to be too ignorant to catch her mistakes. The Constitution now is written “for people who move their lips when they read.”