Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bush deputy press secretary on spin cycle

This afternoon, Trent Duffy — President Bush's Deputy Press Secretary — was interviewed on CNN about a pre-Katrina tape that showed Bush was warned that the levees in New Orleans could be breached. In fact, the tape showed that National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield had deep concerns about it on August 28 and 29, 2005. Mayfield said, "I don't think anyone can tell you with confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very great concern." On September 1, Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff agreed with Bush's statement three days later.

In the CNN interview today, Duffy said that Bush "begged state and local officials" to begin mandatory evacuations. Yes, Bush "begged". Interestingly, according to the timeline on Wikipedia Bush phoned Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco on Sunday, August 28 to get her and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to order mandatory evacuations. That was the first time Bush brought it up. Nagin and Blanco already had a news conference scheduled and apparently they were already ordering the evacuation.

From Wikipedia (link):
9:30 am CDT (1430 UTC) - President Bush calls Governor Blanco, says he is "“very concerned about the storm'’s impact"”, and urges Blanco and Nagin to order a mandatory evacuation. The Mayor and the Governor had a press conference scheduled for 9:30 AM during which they announced the mandatory evacuation. It seems apparent that the phone call from President Bush did not cause them to call for a mandatory evacuation. "We're facing the storm most of us have feared," Nagin told an early-morning news conference, the governor at his side. Katrina was now a Category 5 hurricane, set to make landfall overnight. Minutes earlier, Blanco had been pulled out to take a call from the president, pressed into service by FEMA's Brown to urge a mandatory evacuation. Blanco told him that's just what the mayor would order.
The reference for the Wikipeida entry is here, at the Washington Post site.

So, Duffy said that Bush "begged" Blanco and Nagin to order mandatory evacuations, when evidently Bush brought it up at the same time that Blanco and Nagin were already going to do it. By saying "begged", Duffy makes it sound like Bush was calling for mandatory evacuations for hours or days before they were ordered, or had to push Nagin and Blanco into making the order, which isn't the case.

The White House has been emphasizing the part of the tape that puts Blanco and Nagin in a poor light. For instance, they are stressing a mid-day briefing on August 29 (the day the hurricane made landfall) where Blanco didn't know the levees were breached. The tape shows her saying, "We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees. We heard a report unconfirmed. I think we have not breached the levee."

Of course the White House isn't mentioning the comments of U.S. Senator David Vitter made on Tuesday, August 30. Vitter said, ""I don't want to alarm everybody that, you know, New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. That's just not happening." This probably has something to do with Vitter being a Republican senator, while Blanco and Nagin are Democrats.

(Vitter's office is here in Monroe. The president of the company where I work suggested that folks vote for Vitter in the 2004 elections. Vitter's primary election ad dealt entirely with U.N. election observers present during U.S. elections, and how this was a bad thing. The ad showed fearful voters marching past soldiers, presumably U.N. soldiers, stationed outside of polling centres.)

So the Bush administration's spokespeople are on spin cycle. CNN being CNN they didn't hammer Duffy on his "begged" comment. Repeat after me, "liberal media bias", "liberal media bias"... feeling sleepy yet?

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