At about 4:40pm EDT this afternoon on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell marveled at how Venezuela, “perhaps with a bit of a sense of irony,” has offered assistance despite the call by Pat Robertson, whom she identified as a “colleague” of the Bush administration, for the assassination of Venezuela's President. Chris Matthews soon piped up about how “we often argue about states' rights and the need to reduce the size of the federal government, yet in a crisis, it's the federal government which has the resources, the money, the manpower, the personpower I should say, to do the job.”
Mitchell contended FEMA was ineffective until Bill Clinton became President and was going well until a second Bush took over the White House. She contended that “since the Clinton days,” FEMA has shown “that it can move very effectively,” but “we've seen also, post-9/11, that federal disaster assistance and coordination was sorely lacking.” She also wanted to know “how much the National Guard deployments from around the region to Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the world has depleted the resources that were available?”
Full transcript of the exchange follows.
The MRC's Tim Graham learned, from National Review Online's Kathleen Jean Lopez, about the remarks from Matthews and Mitchell, who in separate Washington, DC studies (Matthews at the North Capitol St. facility and Mitchell at WRC-TV on Nebraska Ave., I believe) spoke over video of hurricane damage. The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video.
Andrea Mitchell: "We should point out that Venezuela, perhaps with a bit of its, a sense of irony, has also volunteered aid, energy assistance. That coming in the aftermath of the continuous criticism by this administration of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and, of course, the flap between a past Republican presidential candidate and administration colleague, dare we say, Pat Robertson, who, in fact, threatened and said that the United States should try to assassinate Hugo Chavez for his communist leanings and his relationship with Fidel Castro. That was at least criticized by the administration, but in any case, they're not rushing to embrace any offer of help, of oil assistance from the Venezuelans."
Chris Matthews: "You know, it strikes me again, and it often does in these situations, and I'd love your thought on it, you know we often argue about states' rights and the need to reduce the size of the federal government, yet in a crisis, it's the federal government which has the resources, the money, the manpower, the personpower I should say, to do the job. And there's no question the states want that help immediately."
Mitchell: "Absolutely. The first thing that the states want is for the President to declare a federal emergency because that entitles FEMA to move in. FEMA has proved in the past that since the Clinton days, that it can move very effectively. As you recall, Bill Clinton managed to turn FEMA into an asset, not a liability, after we had seen this President Bush's father stumble several times with disaster assistance, but Bill Clinton appointed an Arkansas friend who managed to turn, James Lee Witt, who turned that whole operation around, and it has been very successful in the intervening years. FEMA is the one agency that can come in and coordinate everyone. Now, we've seen also, post-9/11, that federal disaster assistance and coordination was sorely lacking. All of the subsequent reports showed that in the event of a terror attack, there was very little communication and, some say, still is. But this, at least, is a test of a natural disaster, a manmade disaster, and how the feds are responding. And we're hearing from the field both praise and criticism, that there wasn't a quick enough response. One thing that I am not really up to speed on, and I'd welcome any help from some of our colleagues at the Pentagon, is how much the National Guard deployments from around the region to Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the world has depleted the resources that were available, at least in the first 48 hours, to New Orleans."