Katie Couric and David Gregory Hang Bush With Oilman and Halliburton Tags
At the top of the Today show Katie Couric attempted a guilt by association jab at Bush when she was teased upcoming stories: "But first this is the President's seventh, seventh trip to the hurricane zone and the former oilman is getting a real firsthand look at the devastation that's there."
The "oilman" reference set up the David Gregory piece on Katrina cleanup bids where he implied companies with ties to the administration were getting sweetheart deals:
At 7:10am the suddenly frugal David Gregory reported: "As you know the federal government has begun to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars everyday to rebuild the Gulf Coast after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The question now who's getting the cash and are taxpayers getting ripped off? It's the splurge after the storms, the costly job of cleanup. Debris has to be cleared, temporary housing put in place, billions in storm work contracts signed by FEMA alone so far. A quarter billion for travel trailers. $27 million for catering. Even $700 for safety boots. The President has promised a huge reconstruction effort."
[George W. Bush: "Now there's gonna be a lot of federal involvement because we're gonna spend money, wisely, I might add."]
Gregory: "But federal investigators are beginning to question the bottom line particularly why, as the New York Times first reported, more than 80 percent of FEMA contracts were awarded without first seeking competitive bids, designed to keep prices down. Congressional Democrats insist there's waste and bloated profits for some of the large prime contractors who hire subcontractors for much of the work."
After Gregory aired a soundbite from noted spendthrift Rep. Henry Waxman (D) Gregory implied companies close to the administration were getting the hookup:
To drive home the point NBC's graphics featured logos of the companies including the dreaded Halliburton.
"The Bechtel Corporation, the recipient of a FEMA contract to provide temporary housing in the flood zone defended its potentially $100 million no bid agreement saying in this statement, quote, 'Government agencies have the right to suspend bidding in a dire emergency and this certainly was one. To have gone through the normal bid process would have taken months.' Waste, abuse and favoritism among the concerns of investigators. Some of the companies getting the biggest contracts have strong ties to the White House and in some cases to local officials like Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour a former Washington lobbyist."