It must be tough writing for the New York Times. Day after day, you have to come up with an anti-Bush angle to every story, whether it’s legitimately there or not.
Take today’s multiple reports on the Congressional investigation into the response to Hurricane Katrina. One of the Times’ articles is titled “White House Knew of Levee’s Failure on Night of Storm.” Wow, sounds like quite a revelation. The article, by Eric Lipton, reports that President Bush has said that he didn’t learn that the levee in New Orleans had broken until Tuesday, August 30. But new documents made public by Congressional investigators reveal that … drum roll … the White House received an email on the levee breaking at midnight on the night of August 29! Which means that Bush learned about the levee on August 30. Not exactly a scoop.
That was just a misleading headline. But Lipton made an outright misrepresentation just a few paragraphs later. In its original version, which I assume appeared in print this morning, his article said:
But the alert did not seem to register. Even the next morning, President Bush, on vacation in Texas, was feeling relieved that New Orleans had “dodged the bullet,” he later recalled.
Only Bush was not on vacation in Texas. Lipton just made that part up. Actually, on the morning of August 30 he was in California, meeting with soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the Times has done a sub silentio correction. The article now reads:
But the alert did not seem to register. Even the next morning, President Bush was feeling relieved that New Orleans had “dodged the bullet,” he later recalled.
Just another hit-and-run by the Times.
Today’s Senate testimony was unedifying, as Michael Brown and the Homeland Security Department pointed fingers at one another. They’re probably both right, but I think it’s highly plausible that establishment of the Homeland Security Department, and incorporation of FEMA and many other agencies under that umbrella, probably did confuse lines of authority and make response more complicated. With hindsight, President Bush’s initial resistance to establishment of the HSD was probably right.
The Times published a number of significant documents today; one that wasn’t emphasized in the paper’s coverage, but seemed significant to me, was the “After Action Summary” by Captain Timothy Bayard of the NOPD on the city’s response. Captain Bayard wrote:
The New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness failed. They did not prepare themselves, nor did they manage the city agencies responsible for conducting emergency response to the disaster. Their function was to coordinate with state, federal and other local agencies, to enlist logistical assistance. We did not coordinate with any state, local or federal agencies. We were not prepared logistically. Most importantly, we relocated evacuees to two locations where there was no food, water or portable restrooms. We did not implement the pre-existing plan. We did not utilize buses that would have allowed us to transport mass quantities of evacuees expeditiously. We did not have food, water or fuel for the emergency workers. We did not have a back up communication system. We had no portable radio towers or repeaters that would have enabled us to communicate. The other mistakes have been mentioned previously.
The first paragraph of Captain Bayard’s “Summary/Recommendations” reads:
The Office of Emergency Preparedness needs to be revamped. If their role is to have us prepared to handle a disaster such as this they FAILED. They lacked a plan, did not provide the necessary equipment, provided no direction or leadership, did not coordinate or attempt to have commanders of field operations coordinate with any state or federal agency, etc. We really need to take a long hard look at this section.
Bayard’s view of FEMA doesn’t seem to be as negative as the Senate’s. His second recommendation reads:
Connect with FEMA as soon as possible. They have an unlimited amount of assets, personnel and equipment available. We must assign a Captain to FEMA as soon as they arrive. This Captain must coordinate all search, rescue and transportation operations with the FEMA commanders.
The Times, however, has no interest in critiquing the performance of Democrats in Louisiana.