As wildfires rage throughout Southern California, media have predictably begun to blame this awful natural disaster on President George W. Bush much as they did almost exactly two years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
On Tuesday evening, MSNBC's Dan Abrams set up an interview with California Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Cal.) thusly:
But the fire storms in California`s raising tough questions about what the National Guard is extended too much to handle emergencies at home. Back in May, before the fire started, "The San Francisco Chronicle" reported that the California National Guard was down a billion dollars worth of equipment. Two hundred and nine vehicles in Iraq, including 110 humvees and 63 military trucks. According to report the California guard should have had 39 diesel generators on hand. They say it had none. The Kansas governor raised similar concerns earlier this year when she said the deployment of National Guard troops to Iraq hurt the emergency response to a deadly tornado in her state. The question -- is this another unanticipated cost of a prolonged and expensive war effort?
On Wednesday morning, CNN's John Roberts asked a similar question of FEMA Administrator David Paulison:
Senator Barbara Boxer from California is complaining that because the National Guard from California is engaged in the war in Iraq, there were not enough members from the National Guard to respond to this fire. What do you say to that?
The MRC's Kyle Drennen reported Wednesday that CBS's Hannah Storm asked roughly the same question of Paulison on today's "Early Show."
Not to be outdone, the good folks at the New York Times are already making the Katrina connection in an article published Wednesday entitled "With Katrina Fresh, Bush Moves Quickly."
And, as NewsBuster Scott Whitlock transcribed Wednesday, ABC's Claire Shipman asked the following of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on "Good Morning America": So, you think the comparison to Katrina that everybody's making in the back of their mind these days is a good one in terms of state and federal."
Yet, the actual culprits for these fires conveniently getting little attention were reported in an Orange County Register editorial on Monday, namely, arson and downed power lines (emphasis added):
Our dismay is doubled, however, by the circumstances that authorities believe caused the fire that has burned at least 8.800 acres in Orange County. Almost all the other fires in the region have been tentatively attributed to natural causes, mostly power lines knocked over by the powerful Santa Ana "devil winds." (We know some people might call power lines unnatural.) But the fire that began near Santiago Canyon on the northern edge of Irvine is suspected arson.
Another article from the Register Monday, entitled "Modjeska Canyon residents evacuated: Arson suspected in Santiago Canyon Fire," was a tad more specific:
The blaze, which was moving steadily north into Silverado Canyon at nightfall after threatening Foothill Ranch and Portola Ranch, was triggered at three separate points near the intersection of Silverado Canyon Road and Santiago Canyon Road in an area called "Grumpy's" after a man who sells beef jerky there.
There was one point of origin on one side of the road and two more on the other side, said Kris Concepcion, a battalion chief with the Orange County Fire Authority.
"Whoever did this knew what they were doing," he said.
Yet, of the 148 television reports logged about these wildfires since Sunday, a LexisNexis search identified only two that addressed the possibility of arson: one done on Fox News's "On the Record" Monday, and; one filed on CNN's "Out in the Open" the same evening.
And, only eighteen discussed the downed power lines.
Another angle media seem to be ignoring is the terrorist one. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security's National Terror Alert website reported the OC Register's arson claims Monday as having a possible terrorist connection:
We are NOT implying that the California fires are an act of terrorism however; the threat of pyro-terrorist attacks pose a significant risk to the U.S. and the fires in California and in Greece earlier this year should be a wake-up call.
In 2003 an FBI memo alerted law enforcement agencies that an al-Qaeda terrorist being held in detention had talked of masterminding a plot to set a series of devastating forest fires around the western United States.
It was reported that the detainee, who was not identified, said the plan involved three or four people setting wildfires using timed devices in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming that would detonate in forests and grasslands after the operatives had left the country.
The Associated Press reported on this issue July 11, 2003 (emphasis added):
The FBI alerted law enforcement agencies last month that an al-Qaeda terrorist now in detention had talked of masterminding a plot to set a series of devastating forest fires around the western United States.
Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, told The Associated Press that officials there took note of the warning but didn't see a need to act further on it.
With arson considered the cause of at least one of these fires, shouldn't investigative journalists be addressing this issue, as well as the real identified cause for many of the fires?
Or would that make it too difficult to blame this catastrophe on President Bush?
Of course, the good folks at CNN have another idea in mind: use the wildfires to push their global warming special "Planet in Peril."
Honestly, you can't make this stuff up!