Tamron Tackles Garamendi on National Guard Gaffe

See Update at Foot -- FEMA Administrator flatly debunks Garamendi

Good on Tamron Hall.

On the one hand, as I've noted here and here, Hall let her liberal leanings show more than once when serving as a "Morning Joe" panelist. But the MSNBC anchor is also the daughter of a career Army man, and clearly knows and respects the military.

When Dem John Garamendi, the California Lt. Gov., appeared on MSNBC this afternoon, Hall took the occasion to challenge him over the misleading remarks about the California National Guard that he made yesterday to Chris Matthews during an interview in which he also spoke most ungraciously, as I noted here, about Pres. Bush's impending visit to California.

TAMRON HALL: President Bush is coming tomorrow and you told Hardball's Chris Matthews that he did not need to come. Instead you'd rather have the National Guard back from Iraq. Chief of the National Guard, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum says that there are still 17,000 National Guardsmen in California right now and just 3,000 in Iraq. Would that have made a difference, and why did you make those comments?

Perhaps not anticipating a challenge in the normally-friendly confines of MSNBC, Garamendi seemed knocked off stride by Hall's question. He blathered for two minutes, and while claiming that the California National Guard was "stretched thin," eventually ran out of steam and acknowledged "these men and women [of the National Guard] like the other firefighters and the police and frankly hundreds of volunteers are doing what's needed to be done to meet this emergency in California."

Translation: California is not lacking for National Guard manpower in fighting the wildfires. Yesterday's crack to Chris Matthews about bringing the Guard home from Iraq was nothing but cheap political posturing.

Kudos to Tamron for raising the issue with Garamendi, whose TV ubiquity during this crisis seems to suggest that he sees the wildfires as his ticket to the governor's mansion.

Update 10-34 7:40 PM EDT: A bit later, under questioning from Norah O'Donnell, FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison flatly debunked Garamendi's National Guard claim.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Much has been made of the work that the National Guard does in a time like this, in emergency. Would it help if more of our troops were back here at home and not in Iraq?

R. DAVID PAULISON: There's plenty of National Guard on the ground. I've heard that rumor going around before. There's over 17,000 National Guard troops here in California . . . that's 85% of California's strength. On top of that, General Blum, that oversees the National Guard, has committed any resources the state needs and when they ask for assistance we're moving them in. General Renuar from NORTHCOM has made the same committment. We have a lot of resources on the ground, a lot of National Guardspeople here, so we need to dispel those rumors. There is plenty of help here.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.