In its coverage Thursday of the latest White House Katrina scandal, the New York Times has unbelievably missed the entire main story that President Bush lied to Americans when, four days after the Hurricane hit, he declared on ABC's Good Morning America that"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." But a new videotape released Wednesday by the Associated Press clearly shows the president, along with Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, being warned the day before the storm struck that the levees in fact were in serious jeopardy. Yet the Times' story makes absolutely no mention of this contradiction. In fact, its opening paragraph is so way off the mark as to almost exonerate the Bushies over their inept response to the storm:
"A newly released transcript of a government videoconference shows that hours after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, federal and state officials did not know that the levees in New Orleans were failing and were cautiously congratulating one another on the government response."
What exactly is the Times saying here? What exactly is the point of this story? How on earth can they completely ignore what is the central point of this new scandal: another Bush lie.
Now some things in life are quite black and white, and the AP video is a pretty damning piece of evidence against the president. And quite ironically, it does a pretty good job of also making former FEMA head and heretofore scapegoat Michael "Brownie" Brown appear surprisingly efficient and quite prescient. Brown can be seen on the tape warning that Katrina would be "a bad one and a big one" and that he worried about the government's "ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe." He noted that the Superdome was about 12 feet below sea level, and he doubted its adequacy as an emergency shelter. That same day he even urged federal officials to cut through red tape to give timely help. "Go ahead and do it," he said. "I'll figure out some way to justify it. Just let them yell at me." My goodness, maybe ole Brownie did a heck of a job after all.
As for the tape itself, participating in a videoconference from his Crawford, Tex ranch, Bush appeared disengaged, sporting his all-too-familiar My Pet Goat look, as Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center warned that the hurricane would be among the worst ever. About the levees specifically, Mayfield said "I don't think any (computer) models can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very grave concern."
Now let's focus on those very significant final eight words: "but that's obviously a very, very grave concern," and pair them with Bush's statement five days later: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." If that isn't an outright lie, what is? And this is the Bush pattern of deception. Who can forget Condi Rice's May 16, 2002 declaration that "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile--a hijacked airplane as a missile." She apparently had forgotten about that pesky little August 8, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike inside U.S." The very same PDB that discussed the use of hijacked airplanes as potential weapons.
"We didn't know" seems to be the popular refrain of this duplicitous administration. But they did know, and they do know. They always know. They just lie about it, that's all.
So now that we know that Bush clearly was aware of the levee situation in the days following the Hurricane, the question to be begged is, why did he remain at his ranch, then make a political swing through California and Arizona, as New Orleans was dealing with catastrophe? How could he remain on vacation and then make an irrelevant trip West while people were dying in the streets down South?
Lending new meaning to apathy and indifference, Bush did not ask a single question during the videoconference. Instead, all he could muster was an unconvincing assurance that "we are fully prepared."
Lies. Lies. Lies. When will it ever stop.