Monday, September 05, 2005

Chertoff Grilled On Meet The Press

Here's more great video from weekend political television. This is Tim Russert on Meet The Press going after Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff on the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. Chertoff spends the better part of the interview blaming the media for its initial take that New Orleans had dodged a bullet -- as if to say that the best the federal government can do is to watch CNN or Fox News for their official updates.

Chertoff then discusses how impossible it is to deal with a disaster of Katrina's magnitude – even though, presumably, doing exactly that is within his job description – and maintains that the best protection is to evacuate the city before the disaster hits.

After asking how President Bush could be so woefully uninformed, Russert hammers Chertoff on how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (which reports to Homeland Security) could have ignored previous warnings about the dangers such a storm might pose to New Orleans' levee system.

"People were stunned by a comment the president of the United States made on Wednesday, Mr. Secretary. He said, 'I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.' How could the president be so wrong, be so misinformed?

"I want to stay on this because this is very important. You said you were surprised by the levee being broken. In 2002, The Times-Picayune did story after story--and this is eerie; this is what they wrote and how they predicted what was going to happen. It said, and I'll read it very carefully:

'A major hurricane could decimate the region, but flooding from even a moderate storm could kill thousands. It's just a matter of time.
The scene's been played out for years in computer models or emergency operations simulations... New Orleans has hurricane levees that create a bowl with the bottom dipping lower than the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain. ...the levees would trap any water that gets inside-- by breach, overtopping or torrential downpour--catastrophic storm. ... The estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter for people too sick or inform to leave the city. ...

'But many will simply be on their own, in homes or looking for high ground. Thousands will drown while trapped in homes or cars by rising water. Other will be washed away or crushed by debris. Survivors will end up trapped on roofs, in buildings or on high ground surrounded by water, with no means of escape and little food or fresh water, perhaps for several days.'

"That was four years ago. And last summer FEMA, who reports to you, and the LSU Hurricane Center, and local and state officials did a simulated Hurricane Pam in which the levees broke. The levees broke, Mr. Secretary."
Seeing the media actually responding to the criminal ineptitude of the Bush administration gives me faith that they are beginning to find their mission and backbone again.

Go to Crooks and Liars to see the rest of this video clip.