Bush New Response – We Had No Idea

By Saturday afternoon it seemed as though the Bush administration spin machine was preparing to fall back on the old line that the failed hurricane response was somehow Bill Clinton’s fault. Now it is clear that this was little more than a 24 hour smoke screen to hold of criticism long enough for a more comprehensive PR spin to take form. That spin has finally hit the echo chamber in full force in the form of a concerted attack against LA Governor Blanco. In yesterday’s Washington Post a line appeared just long enough to enter the realm of right-wing conventional wisdom. In effect is said that Governor Blanco failed to declare a state of emergency until after pressure from the administration, pinning the blame firmly on the Governor and local (Democratic) authorities.

This little lie was quickly and expediently refuted by none other than right wing pundit Andrew Sullivan with the following post:

The president told Diane Sawyer that no one anticipated the breach of the levees – about the dumbest thing he has said since the “Mission Accomplished” fiasco. Today, the WaPo, in the piece cited above, has this: “As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.” Hmm. As a reader pointed out, the record shows she did such a thing the previous Saturday. And that Bush had declared one the next day. When the administration’s excuses are this patently thin – and contradict each other – you know that this time, even Karl Rove cannot blame someone else.

Unfortunately 24 hours is ample time for right-wing revisionism to catch on and become conventional widom. By 9:56 PM last night Wizbang picked this piece up and ran with it, speculating that when all is said and done, the blame for this failed response will fall on Blanco.

A quick look back at the Washington Post’s original piece today shows that at least they recognized their error (I can only assume it was an error and not a blatant attempt to plant spin) and have made a minor retraction.

Correction to This Article
A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.

Ok, so that one is debunked, what next you ask? Keep blaming Blanco. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff carried the blame Blanco theme to the Sunday talk shows yesterday with a line that eventually ended up in this morning’s Washington Times. What is that line? We had no idea the situation was as bad as it was.

State and local officials did not inform top federal officials early on of the deaths and lack of food among hurricane victims in the Superdome or convention center, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday.

Mr. Chertoff said neither he nor Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown was told of the deteriorating situation in New Orleans until Thursday night.

“This is clearly something that was disturbing. It was disturbing to me when I learned about it, which came as a surprise. You know, the very day that this emerged in the press, I was on a video conference with all the officials, including state and local officials. And nobody, none of the state and local officials or anybody else was talking about a convention center,” Mr. Chertoff told CNN.

Oh really? That’s interesting because anyone with a freakin’ TV or an internet connection knew about the situation. As a matter of fact, Chertoff clearly knew about it as well since he claims in the quote above to have known the day it emerged in the press. Does he expect us to believe that he was on a video conference with LA officials that day, with all those non-stop reports on CNN, MSNBC and FOX, and it simply did not come up? No one asked a question about it? Is there nothing these people will do to deflect blame?

The New York Times has a decent analyis of this situation: After Failures, Officials Play Blame Game.

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