Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush, Like Chertoff, Tries To Spin Surprise That Levees Broke

On Tuesday, JABBS was surprised and modestly pleased that President Bush took on responsibility for the ineffective federal response to Hurricane Katrina. The president offered similar words in his nationally televised speech last night.

Yes, the line may have scripted by Karl Rove, who it was learned yesterday is "in charge of the reconstruction effort." But it was an improvement over the spin-and-deny style of the Bush Administration.

Still, the press conference on Tuesday wasn't a "no-spin zone."

President Bush, like Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff before him, tried to spin the odd reaction he gave to ABC's Diane Sawyer on Sept. 1, when he said: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

Chertoff told Tim Russert he "opened newspapers (Aug. 30) and saw headlines that said 'New Orleans Dodged The Bullet.'" The statement was ridiculous -- we'd have to assume Chertoff woke up to the morning papers on Tuesday not realizing a two-block breach had occurred the night before, and had been reported as of 1:30 a.m. Aug. 30. And the statement was almost certainly a lie: Newseum has 477 archived front pages from Aug. 30 -- and none of them have anything close to "New Orleans Dodged The Bullet." The best JABBS could find were three on-line headlines, two from Aug. 29 (before the levee broke) and a factually inaccurate headline from 11:37 a.m. Central time Aug. 30.

But that didn't stop others in the administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, from repeating the lie.

And now comes President Bush, with a variation of the story on Tuesday.

Q Did [briefers] misinform you when you said no one anticipated the breach of the levees?

BUSH: No. What I was referring to is this: When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, "Whew." There was a sense of relaxation. And that's what I was referring to.

And I myself thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people probably over the airwaves say, "The bullet has been dodged." And that was what I was referring to.


Now, as The Daily Howler points out, "That answer is weak — but it isn’t as factually bogus as some have suggested. On the day Katrina hit, some people did say, 'over the airwaves,' that New Orleans had just dodged a bullet."

The Daily Howler then cites comments from Brian Williams of NBC's Today Show, Aaron Brown of CNN, an MSNBC meterologist, and National Public Radio.

But are we to believe that President Bush was glued to his television in Crawford, Texas, at just the right moments to view these comments? Remember, this is a man who has said he doesn't read newspapers -- instead relying on the infamous presidential daily briefings -- and who had to be provided with a DVD of newscasts so he could understand the initial critical reaction to the federal Katrina response. The image of the Bush inner circle gathered around a television or radio for primary information on Katrina doesn't ring true -- just like it didn't ring true that Chertoff relied on newspaper headlines as his source of information.

Isn't it more likely that in the 12 days that followed -- 12 days that included widespread criticism of Chertoff's ridiculous comments -- that some White House staffer did a Lexis/Nexis search to find examples of anything including the concept "New Orleans Dodged a Bullet," found a handful of television and radio comments, allowing Bush to offer a defendable excuse for his weak statement to Saywer? Certainly, the White House should have known the question would come up.

The Daily Howler had to do a Lexis/Nexis search to find the examples. Odds are, so did someone prepping the President for Tuesday's press conference.


Blogger Joe said...

I must say that going though a lot of different Blogs that must people have one thing in common to say about Bush that he is just in Denial (an inability or a refusal to admit that something exists)

6:43 PM  
Blogger prying1 said...

Only thing you Dems have to do is start winning elections. Hey! Why not put Michael Moore on the ticket to be the next Prez?

1:37 AM  
Blogger MyPoint said...

#1 Everybody did say initialy that New Orleans didged a bullet. Time for you guys to get out of denial.

#2 The timeline of it all is somewhat irrelavent since the Mayor and the Governor need to be the first responders to any situation. NOT the federal government.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you tell us "My Point" who initially said New Orleans dodged a bullet.
It has been documented on blogs like this one the few reports, mostly from conservative media outlets, suggesting New Orleans has dodged a bullet, verses the dozens of media reports screaming that New Orleans was in trouble.
That is the Republican/conservative strategy throw up an argument without providing any support in the hopes it will create enough of a smokescreen to confuse the masses in order to disguise Bushies mistakes and incompetence.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

MyPoint, "everybody" did not say that NO dodged a bullet -- unless you can offer proof that no one else has found.

Newseum, as noted, tracked 477 major daily newspapers. None offered that headline. An exhaustive Lexis/Nexis search found four references on all of television and radio on the day BEFORE the levees broke.

That's not "everybody." That's less than 1%.

Even using the Bushies logic that they heard this (which is plausible, vs. Chertoff's statement, which is not), you basically are saying that you approve of Bush agreeing with the 1% of the media saying this, and not the 99% of the media that didn't.

Is that good decision-making? Or is that just good excuse-making?

I know it shatters your world to hear that you were lied to by the Bush Administration, but almost certainly that's what has happened.

11:03 AM  
Blogger HonestJournalism said...

You know, I'm so tired of hearing "Bush didn't do this, Bush did that." The local officials aren't responsible? Nagin? Blanco? Come on. Here's a little known fact - reported by some, but not widely: "Mayor" Nagin just bought a house in Dallas... yes, Texas. He's going to run New Orleans from Dallas. Nagin should be recalled immediately. He's a disaster with disasters, and he put his citizens in harm's way by not utilizing those school buses.

So wring your hands and point the finger at Washington. But I leave you with this - why are Mississippi and Alabama plugging away much better on recovery efforts than Louisiana? Their governors are not weakminded, partisan Democrats. They're responsible and do their jobs.

9:36 PM  

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