I have to admit that I have never been a fan of former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin who appeared to be the very symbol of dysfunctional incompetence during the Katrina catastrophe. He was universally criticized for doing relatively little during the crisis from his hotel room overlooking the disaster. His reelection left many less sympathetic with the city and, as a former New Orleans resident myself, I was appalled by Nagin’s utter failure to act (let alone lead) during the disaster. Nagin has now written a book that seems intent on showing that he is not really incompetent . . . just completely delusional.
Nagin writes about his belief during the disaster that there was a vast conspiracy against him and that the federal government might try to poison him. He also believed that the city’s wealthiest citizens were trying to buy his hotel room — a hilarious suggestion since they would have been able to listen in on days of his inaction and ravings.
One of “Katrina’s Secrets” was how Nagin dealt with his belief that people in the federal government were out to murder him.
“I thought to myself, ‘I’m a dead man! I have just publicly denounced the governor, U.S. Senators, FEMA and the president of the United States.’ I started wondering if during the night I would be visited by specially trained CIA agents. Could they secretly shoot me with a miniature, slow-acting poison dart?
When he visited the USS Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship used as a base of federal operations, officials took him to the infirmary for medical care. Two medical staffers wanted to give him shots to protect him from the conditions in the city. Nagin writes “I was still a little paranoid and again started imagining a secret CIA plot where in six months I would be gone. After thinking for a minute, I said to them, ‘Okay, you can give me shots, but I want you to do the same for my two security guys.’ . . . My thinking was it would have been easier to spin that stress ultimately took me out, but it would be much harder to explain all three of us suddenly dying mysteriously.”
Nagin says the writing of the book was “therapeutic” experience. Well at least he is getting some therapy.
Now here is the true kicker. After his scandalous incompetence and inaction, Nagin has launched a new career . . . as a disaster consultant. Not as a disaster himself, mind you. A disaster consultant.