Well, that’s not such a good metaphor for a hurricane disaster—holding FEMA’s lungs underwater would be a better image. Regardless, last night Nightline showed an interview Koppel conducted earlier in the day with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director, Michael Brown.
He gave Brown no mercy. Nor should he have. Koppel acted like professional journalists should, yet rarely do in these days of fawning deference to Bush administration incompetence.
Whenever Brown tried to wriggle out of a question about how FEMA has been responding (or, rather, not responding) to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Koppel interrupted him with a “Excuse me, but actually…” sort of comment.
Here’s some examples. These are rough quotes from my memory, not a transcript.
Brown: “We’re doing all that we can to get aid to New Orleans as soon as possible.”
Koppel: “For a week you’ve known that a powerful hurricane was going to hit the area. The city should have been getting help at least 48 hours ago.”
Brown: “We care about every person affected by the hurricane. We’re going to make sure everybody gets the help they need.”
Koppel: “People already have died for lack of help. It’s too late for those people. You’ve failed them.”
Brown: “Refugees in the New Orleans convention center are getting food and water right now.”
Koppel: “No, they’re not. Reporters on the scene say it’s chaos at the convention center. Nobody is in charge and nobody is getting aid.”
Brown: “There are about 5,000 people at the convention center.”
Koppel: “Actually, there are at least 25,000 people there.”
Brown: “Residents chose to stay in New Orleans after they were ordered to evacuate. We couldn’t do anything about that.”
Koppel: “Many stayed because they were poor and had no transportation. You could have sent in lots of flat-bed trucks and gotten them out of there before the hurricane hit, but you didn’t.”
And so on. When the hurricane hit I, like almost everyone else, expected that this would be a time when America would come together and leave politics behind. But last night’s interview showed me that high-ranking officials in the Bush administration never leave politics behind.
They must be required to go to a “How to B.S. with a straight face” training before they take the oath of office. Every time Brown was caught in a deception he just shrugged his shoulders and moved on to the next half-truth or un-truth. He never apologized for FEMA screwups or gave the slightest indication that aid efforts weren’t going absolutely wonderfully.
I felt sick watching Brown. The guy seemed to be in water way over his head. All he knew how to do was spout platitudes. Grasping reality was beyond him. That’s par for the Bush administration course: speak a falsity forcefully and often, hoping that it will be mistaken for the truth by a public incapable of distinguishing fact and fiction.
Fortunately, there was a lot of fact-telling on the New York Times web site today. This is what’s really been happening with the Katrina aid bungling:
And if those articles aren’t enough telling-it-like-it-is for you, here’s one more from another source: