Thursday, September 08, 2005

GOP Governing Philosophy

The original intent of Federal disaster assistance is to supplement State and local response efforts. Many are concerned that Federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective State and local risk management. Expectations of when the Federal Government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level. We must restore the predominant role of State and local response to most disasters. Federal assistance needs to supplement, not supplant, State and local efforts.

Having Federal assistance supplement, not supplant State and local efforts is, most likely, going to be one of the more difficult measures aimed at responsibility and accountability that this Administration will have to work through.

-- Joe M. Allbaugh, Bush crony and unqualified political hack, who preceded equally unqualified political hack Micheal Brown (his former college roommate good friend and handpicked successor), as director of FEMA, testifying before Congress in 2001.

Shorter GOP governing philosophy: Don't do anything right for the people, it only encourages them.

Harold Meyerson covers the longer version here.

UPDATE: The Shrill One is on the case as well. Best line: "Why did the administration make the same mistakes twice? Because it paid no political price the first time." Or, to translate for the benefit of Washington journalists, "pointing the finger," now, means saving American lives, the next time these jokers have to deal with a national emergency.

SECOND UPDATE: It seems that even the normally somnambulant New York Times editorial board has taken to sounding something like the Executive Committee of the Liberal Conspiracy that wingnuts always imagine it to be: "Political patronage has always been a hallmark of Washington life. But President Bill Clinton appointed political pals at FEMA who actually knew something about disaster management." The Times editorial board, comparing Bush unfavorably to--Clinton? Maybe the apocalypse really is upon us.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Excuses, Excuses (and Lies)

Josh Marshall reads the WaPo article describing how the White House is engaged in a full-scale effort to shift blame for the slow, woefully inadequate emergency response to Katrina onto the backs of state and local officials. Apparently, the original "Who knew?" excuse just wasn't cutting it, so now they're rolling out this new and improved model. Or as Josh puts it:
Now at least we have the storyline. The Bush administration wasn't caught sleeping on the job while New Orleans went under with a gutted FEMA run by a guy who got fired from his last job policing horse shows. In fact, according to the new White House storyline, the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans didn't ask for help quickly enough. And the White House was powerless to act until they did. Apparently they couldn't even reschedule the president's vacation until the locals got the right forms signed.

Unfortunately for the career of this latest excuse, AmericaBlog is ready with this reality check, drawn straight from the White House's own August 27th press release on "Federal Emergency Assistance for Louisiana," which reads, in part:
The President today declared an emergency exists in the state of Louisiana...

The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population...

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency...

The 27th was the Saturday before Katrina hit. So which is it? Was the President overstepping his constitutional authority on Saturday the 27th? Or is the White House currently engaged in a campaign of organized lying to cover up the federal government's mismanagement of a disaster relief effort it was duly authorized to coordinate?

UPDATE: Over at TPM Cafe, nascardaughter has dug up the actual legal criteria that govern DHS/FEMA involvement. There's little doubt they were met in this case. No more excuses, indeed.

SECOND UPDATE: (Via Atrios) Pamela Leavey at The Democratic Daily reads the same WaPo article that Josh did and finds that, despite its overall critical tone, it contains at least one uncritically recycled, baldfaced lie from an anonymous Bush administration official, to wit:
As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

Pamela Leavey conclusively demonstrates that this claim is utterly false, simply by linking to both the official state declaration of emergency [PDF], dated the 26th, and the letter Gov. Blanco sent to Bush [PDF] on the 28th, informing him that a state emergecy had been declared, and asking him to make the appropriate federal declaration (which, as we have seen, he subsequently did, on the 27th).

This raises the questions: Why did the Washington Post reporters and editors accept, at face value, and then publish, in their newspaper, a plainly politically self-serving, anonymous leak from an administration official, rather than doing the very minimal fact checking that would have been required to determine that the leak was a baldfaced lie? And: What is the WaPo going to do now, to redress such a flagrant instance of journalistic and editorial malpractice?

I won't be holding my breath.

Epidemic of Real Journalism Continues to Rage in Wake of Katrina

Headlines on the Washington Post homepage, September 3, 2005, 11:00 PM PST:

Thousands Await Help, While Feds Shift Blame

What Went Wrong: Disarray at the Top Despite 9/11

The latter article, in particular, by Susan B. Glasser and Josh White, is unflinching in calling failure by its proper name, and calling bullshit on official ass-covering.

Okay: Who are these people and what have they done with the gentle courtiers of the Washington press corps?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who Knew?

I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.

President George W. Bush, Interview with Diane Sawyer
ABC's Good Morning America, Sept. 1, 2005

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as ifthey were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented airconditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead onthe city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however--the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level--more than eight feet below in places--so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million peoploe were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't--yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City.

Joel K. Bourne, Jr., "Gone With the Water"
National Geographic Magazine, October 2004

In Bush's defense, I guess you could say that the National Geographic story was a sort of "historical document." Oh wait--they used that one already, didn't they?

UPDATE: Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff is also on message. Unfortunately for him, it seems that the mainstream media's tolerance level for baldfaced lying has finally been breached (or was it just overflowed?) by the category five BS coming out of official Washington this week, resulting in a veritable flood of actual journalism, as evidenced by this CNN lede:
Defending the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur.

But in fact, government officials, scientists and journalists have warned of such a scenario for years.