On CNN's In the Money today, Jack Cafferty suggested that President Bush is devoting too much time to the natural disasters in the southeastern United States: "President Bush is calling on Americans to drive less, in between the trips on Air Force One to the Gulf Coast, which seems to be happening about every six hours in the last week or ten days."
Yet only weeks ago, Cafferty was berating the President for not doing enough. On August 31, he sarcastically asked Wolf Blitzer, host of CNN's The Situation Room, "Where's President Bush? Is he still on vacation?" When Blitzer told him that Mr. Bush was cutting his vacation short because of the devastation, Cafferty said that "would be a good idea."
It seems that as time progresses, we are going to continually be apprised of errors and poor assumptions that were reported to us during the days that followed the recent hurricane disaster in New Orleans. Last night, “NBC Nightly News” peeled back the curtain on another misconception that was proffered by most media outlets right after Katrina hit, namely that the poor condition of New Orleans’ levees was the fault of the Bush administration.
Lisa Myers last evening told the nation otherwise:
“NBC news has obtained what may be a key clue hidden in these long-forgotten legal documents. They reveal that when this floodwall on the 17th street canal was built a decade ago, there were major construction problems, problems brought to the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This document shows that the contractor, Pittman construction, told the Corps of Engineers that the soil and the foundation for the walls were not of sufficient strength, rigidity, and stability to build on.”
Her report goes on in some detail with the help of former Army Corps of Engineers workers and college professors to outline that it was known more than a decade ago while President Clinton was in the White House that the earth under many of these floodwalls was not stable enough. A link provided in the text version of this report at MSNBC's website shows the legal decision of the Corps' judge concerning this matter, and that all Pittman wanted was another $809,659 plus an additional 80 days to do the work properly. Their request was denied.
What follows is a full transcript of this report, a link to the Corps judge's ruling, and a video link.
"The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified 'rapes,' and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of 'scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials'....
"Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor.
In the weeks that have followed Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans, much of the mainstream media have been pointing a finger of blame at the federal government for not properly funding that city’s levee system. This morning, CNN did a report that tears some holes in this premise.
On “American Morning,” John King visited South Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, a coastal community just thirty-five miles south of New Orleans. What he found was quite surprising: a town that has been hit by Katrina and Rita just like New Orleans, but has not suffered near the damage.
Why? Well, because the local community decided to augment federal funds for their levee system with local tax dollars to install higher quality storm and hurricane protection than what surrounding parishes and cities did. As a result, CNN this morning gave us all a wonderful look at what happens in this nation when local communities look out for themselves without relying on the federal government's protection.
What follows is a full-transcript of this interview, along with a video link.
On this morning's Today Katie Couric and Tim Russert looked like NFL linebackers diving for a loose ball as they piled on Bush from so many different directions. First up was the gas price angle:
Couric: "I know the President is calling on the American public to conserve gasoline by driving less and he even sent a memo to all federal agency and department heads saying, the federal government, quote, 'must lead by example and further contribute to the relief effort by reducing its own fuel use during this difficult time.' How much political pressure is the President under given these rising fuel costs?"
Russert: "Enormous, Katie. It's the one issue that cuts across all class and geographic lines and as we just heard in Alexis' report it's not only gasoline cost for this fall but come this winter particularly in the Midwest and Northeast there's expectations that fuel heating costs can go up as much as 70 percent. Enormous political pressure. Why? Those are the battleground, undecided states that Republicans must continue to control to retain and control both houses of Congress."
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."
Rep. Peter King was interviewed by Hardball's Chris Matthews, and Radioblogger has the blow-by-blow of this very one-sided battle. Decision by a knockout to Rep. King. Here's the final comment by King which ended the match:
"Chris, you won't give me a chance to answer the questions. Just because the president doesn't watch you on television, it doesn't mean he's not doing his job. You know, Franklin Roosevelt wasn't hired to listen to radio accounts of D-Day. You're hired to do the job, and the president can do his job without having to listen to Chris Matthews or Andrea Mitchell or Tim Russert, or any of the others. He is doing his job. Now I agree the military should have been brought in sooner, but that was primarily the fault of the local government not being more responsive, and then the president did the best he could.
CNN this morning did a series of reports from New Orleans focusing on the problems with that city’s levees. “American Morning’s” Soledad O’Brien first interviewed Joey DIFatta, chairman of St. Bernard Parish, along with New Orleans city council president Oliver Thomas. Later, O’Brien questioned an Army Corps of Engineers colonel. During these discussions, it was suggested that lower quality repairs to the levee system were made in the poor neighborhoods of New Orleans, an assertion that the colonel thoroughly refuted (video to follow):
The drumbeat has been steady since Hurricane Katrina ripped its path of destruction throughout the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans. As bannered by the media, nature’s wrath is secondary. What really caused the devastation was America’s racism.
Reporters and broadcasters have sought out personalities such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Julian Bond and other left-leaning black activists who have been more than willing to advance the charge of racism.
Even more disconcerting is a positive story of kindness that is wrapped in the hate actions of past years.
It his attempt to portray continuing racism in the United States, Todd Lewan of the Associated Press filed a story September 26, 2005 headlined “Town once plagued by racism gets 2nd chance”.
Faithful readers of NewsBusters are quite aware of the ever-changing opinion of the Army Corps of Engineers by America’s Old Grey Lady, the New York Times. As reported here and here, the Times for more than a decade has had a very negative view of the Corps. They have questioned the value of its work, its accounting practices, and the environmental impact of its projects.
However, in the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina, the Times mysteriously reversed this view without any explanation, and began suggesting that if President Bush had fully funded the Corps, the levees in New Orleans would not have failed.
Having suggested just weeks ago that the Corps should have been basically given a blank-check for its services, the Times published an article today by Eric Lipton and Ron Nixon wherein it has reverted to its pre-Katrina view that the Corps wastes taxpayer money:
Too slow on Katrina, too quick on Rita? During Saturday’s special hour-long NBC Nightly News, reporter Kevin Corke suggested President Bush ran “the risk of looking like a political opportunist” with Hurricane Rita by taking exactly the active hands-on approach demanded by media critics in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast last month.
The liberal media are never satisfied.
MRC news analyst Mike Rule caught Corke’s reasoning:
We all remember during those first few days of Katrina that there were reports of terrible atrocities occurring in the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center, and WHERE WAS BUSH!, and all that nonsense. Well, it turns out that the vast majority of those stories at best were urban legends which the media reported as facts and in the process created a lot of ill will toward the Federal government:
After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.
"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.
The real total was six, Beron said.
Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.
As amazing as it might seem, it is now four weeks since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. Yet, even though another major storm has pummeled our country this weekend, CNN is still fixated on the perceived errors made by the federal government four weeks ago rather than the successful evacuation and preparations for Hurricane Rita.
On Sunday’s “American Morning,” CNN’s Elaine Quijano spent part of her Hurricane Rita report chastising the president for his performance during Hurricane Katrina (video to follow):
Do you remember that Jefferson Parish, Louisiana president that was on NBC's “Meet the Press” three weeks ago suggesting that the poor response by the federal government to Hurricane Katrina ended up resulting in the death of a colleague’s mother? To refresh your memory (video to follow):
Aaron Broussard to Tim Russert, September 4, 2005: Sir, they were told, like me, every single day, "The cavalry is coming." On the federal level, "The cavalry is coming. The cavalry's coming. The cavalry's coming." The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard Nursing Home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama. Somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday." "Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday." "Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday." "Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.
“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams wrote an op-ed for the New York Times this morning. In a lot of respects, it praised former president Lyndon Baines Johnson, while certainly not flattering George W. Bush. In fact, the purpose of the piece appears to be to chastise president Bush for not going to Texas ahead of Rita by relaying what Johnson did forty years ago when Hurricane Betsy hit Louisiana:
“GIVEN President Bush's final decision not to head to Texas in advance of Hurricane Rita, it's worth noting that American presidents have long found both political riches and peril at the scene of a storm. A listen to the tapes of President Lyndon B. Johnson's White House telephone conversations of 40 years ago reveals that history does indeed repeat itself, even if presidential reactions and motivations have varied widely.”
Yet, the piece went on to show how LBJ didn’t want to go to Louisiana despite the efforts of its Senator, Russell Long. It wasn’t until Long properly conveyed a political benefit for the trip that LBJ acquiesced:
A day after NBC's Matt Lauer asked on Today, "why are there so many hurricanes this year and is global warming to blame?" and Robert Bazell ominously concluded an NBC Nightly News story by asserting that "many experts say" hurricane-fueling global warming "results partly from humans releasing greenhouse gases possibly creating even more violent storms in the future," ABC and CBS aired stories which largely dismissed global warming as a culprit. On Thursday's World News Tonight, ABC's Ned Potter featured a soundbite from National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield, who in little-reported congressional testimony Tuesday, discounted global warming as a factor. CBS's Russ Mitchell, on The Early Show, featured a scientist who "says hurricane activity comes in cycles that can last several decades. It seems Mother Nature has mood swings." Mitchell explained that "hurricane cycles are primarily driven by rainfall patterns in Africa and the Amazon basin." As for hype about hurricanes on the rise, Mitchell admonished: "The experts will tell us back in the '50s and '60s we saw some monster hurricanes, but we just have very short memories."
(Viewers of ABC's PrimeTime Thursday, however, heard more hyperbolic lunacy on global warming as Barbra Streisand exclaimed to Diane Sawyer: "We are in a global warming emergency state and these storms are going to become more frequent, more intense, there could be more droughts, dust bowls, you know it's amazing to hear these facts, I mean, the Andes have no ice caps on the mountains in winter. The glaciers are melting. I mean, for the United States not to be part of the Kyoto treaty is unforgivable.")
Full transcripts and CBS's 1950-'60s hurricane graphic follow.
In its Katrina coverage, the MSM made hay at President Bush's expense in suggesting that the government's sluggish response was the result of racism.
Given the early and energetic preparations of government at all levels for Rita, you might think that it would impossible for the MSM to recycle the racism canard. But that didn't stop the Today show from giving it the old college try this morning.
Lester Holt normally strikes me as a solid professional. In footage from yesterday aired on this morning's show, Holt reported from Galveston, covering the last of the evacuees, largely poor people it seemed, being put on school buses "who had no other way to leave."
Holt asked what appeared to be a poor black man sitting on a school bus about to be evacuated: "were you afraid that you could be left behind here?"
There are some who would argue journalists don't do serious stories about religion. The respect for a higher power cherished by the majority in this country is not a voice represented in the newsroom. Some might think that even when religion is approached in a story, it is treated like wacky antics of the criminally insane.
Well that just isn't true. You obviously don't care about black people and want to send the children of others to die in Iraq funded on the lunch money of the poor if you believe that.
Declaring that the Media Research Center “is a much more biased organization than any institution in the MSM," CBS Evening News Executive Producer Jim Murphy, on the CBS News “Public Eye” blog on Thursday, criticized two MRC CyberAlertarticles I wrote which were first posted this week on NewsBusters. Public Eye Editor Vaughn Ververs asked Murphy to comment on a September 20 NewsBusters item, “CBS: Bush Should 'Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.'” Murphy seemed befuddled by the article: “Please explain to me what's WRONG with pointing out the President spoke from an air-conditioned tent, which to most people on the gulf would be a more than welcome relief from their existence. It was not gratuitous, it was an interesting note” and the CBS reporter's “use of the well-known phrase, 'wake up and smell the coffee,' was attributed to the restaurant owners as THEIR feeling, NOT hers. It's just good, colorful, pointed writing.” (The MRC's Michelle Humphrey tracked down a still shot of Murphy from a May of 2004 appearance on CNN.)
But Murphy's reasoning is a tautology. I was criticizing the judgment of CBS News on what is news. Other outlets did not choose to highlight Bush's air-conditioned surroundings, how one woman at a French Quarter restaurant assailed him for not experiencing their suffering or what Jimmy Carter said. Carter makes comments nearly every day. CBS chose to report this particular comment on this day. CBS decided that the restaurant owner's comment was more newsworthy than any number of other soundbites they could have run. The story reflected an agenda. By Murphy's reasoning, my articles should be beyond criticism since they accurately quoted what CBS reported.
Public Eye Editor Ververs conceded the NewsBusters/MRC piece on Bush had a point about CBS's "attitude." That and a bit more from Murphy follows.
CNN’s Joe Johns patrolled the halls of Congress this morning asking senators and representatives how America was going to pay for the reconstruction of New Orleans. His questions normally revolved around two themes: raising taxes, and cutting funding for the Iraq war (video to follow):
To Sen. Cornyn (R–Tex): Are we talking about scaling back tax cuts to pay for Katrina?
Lead-in to Sen. Reid (D–Nev) speech: Democrats want to put the tax cuts on hold, but they’re not willing to touch social programs.
On the Wednesday, September 21, 2005, episode of The Randi Rhodes Show on Air America, host Randi took a call from a female listener in New York, who proceeded to criticize the manner of the removal of victims in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Randi's response? She compared the event to the Holocaust! (An audio of the entire show can be found here (mp3 file). The remarks are about 40% of the way in.)
It's outrageous. Read for yourself (emphasis mine; audiotape on file):
CALLER (continuing): The thing that really killed me was the fact that when they bussed some of them out of the Dome. They loaded them on the bus, and they wouldn't tell them where they were going.
RANDI: Yeah. What is that?
CALLER: That is like when you transfer prisoners to one --
In a possible foreshadowing of what we can expect in the next few days, the Associated Press suggested that there is a political motive behind the massive mobilization occuring in Texas ahead of the imminent arrival of Hurricane Rita:
“Eager to avoid the public pounding he got for his response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush pledged on Wednesday to be "ready for the worst" as another big hurricane headed for the Gulf Coast.”
Although the article is titled “Administration Prepares for Rita,” the AP spent a lot of time talking about the politics of Hurricane Katrina:
In a Wednesday CBS Evening News story on shortcomings in FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina, reporter Randall Pinkston cited “frustrations that reached as far away as the state of Maine, where officials received ice that was supposed to go to the Gulf Coast." Pinkston touted how “former President Jimmy Carter, who created FEMA, criticized the Bush administration's decision to strip the agency's independence." Viewers then saw a clip of Jimmy Carter from a Tuesday night forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta: "This obviously lowered FEMA's status so that they would have to go through four or five levels of bureaucracy even to reach the President, whereas FEMA used to deal directly with the President." Of course, that decision -- good or bad -- had bi-partisan support in Congress. (Neither ABC or NBC found Carter's remarks newsworthy.)
Was Bette Midler serious or joking, when she said at a Tuesday night “From the Big Apple to the Big Easy” fundraising concert in New York City, as recounted in a Rolling Stone posting: "I got a letter from the Republican Party the other day. I wrote back, 'Go fuck yourself.' She then added, 'George Bush is a fan of mine -- he came to see me in the Seventies. His coke dealer brought him.'" Rolling Stone characterized that as an example of how some celebrities “angrily denounced government officials” and how Midler employed “even stronger words” than used by another singer. In contrast, however, the AP's Nekesa Mumbi Moody treated Midler's comments as comedy: “Except for a joke about President Bush by Bette Midler -- which promptly got her booed -- the evening's focus was not on the divisive politics of the tragedy, but on the music that has brought communities together in its wake.”
On CNN’s “American Morning” today, Soledad O’Brien spent much of her interview with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff focusing on what happened in New Orleans three weeks ago when Katrina hit rather than questioning the secretary about how prepared the Gulf coast is for the looming Hurricane Rita (video link and full transcript to follow):
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Lots of officials have told us that they're looking forward in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And I understand that. But I'm curious to know what you see as your responsibility in the big problems in responding to that storm. We heard from the mayor who said he'll take his fair share of the blame. The governor who said the state response buck stops with her. The president said the federal response issues are his fault. Do you take blame for some of the problems?
You knew it was coming. The Hurricane Katrina inspired global warming stories. Well at the top of this morning's Today show Matt Lauer invoked one of the media's favorite boogeymen:
Matt Lauer: "Then why are there so many hurricanes this year and is global warming to blame? We'll take a closer look at that."
At 7:18am Katie Couric, with a graphic next to her running down the names of all the hurricanes this season, conjectured that global warming was causing so many hurricanes this year the government was running out of names for them.
Katie Couric: "Hurricane season ends November 1st but already people are asking why have there been so many? It has been a brutal year. 17 named storms in the Atlantic, nine of them hurricanes. Among them Arlene, Dennis, the deadly Katrina and now Rita. So many in fact that only four names are left. Stan, Tammy, Vince and Wilma. After that the National Hurricane Center would have to use the Greek alphabet. Are humans partially to blame for all these natural disasters? Here's NBC's Tom Costello."
Some fabulous news was released yesterday concerning all those missing children from the states recently ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Mysteriously, the Washington Post buried the story on page A10:
“Authorities trying to track down more than 2,600 children in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama still missing three weeks after Hurricane Katrina believe that most of them are not really ‘missing.’
“Rather, authorities said, the vast majority of these children are ‘lost’ -- separated from a parent or guardian during the rush to rescue hurricane victims from rooftops and shelters, when families were divided because of lack of space on a bus or helicopter.”
As the story continues, we find out that about 35 percent of the cases of missing children in the area have already been resolved:
“As of yesterday, the center had resolved 966 out of 3,600 Hurricane Katrina cases, Allen said.”
The AP is constructing bad news for the President (Katrina Adds to Public Doubts About Bush). Again. And to do it, they're using a skewed sample poll, and then misrepresenting what it says. The latest AP-Ipsos poll is what they're reporting on. Once again, they've got a sample of adults, and it is signficantly skewed, with 49 percent Democrats and 41 percent Republicans. And they use that skewed sample as a hammer to hit the President, even if it isn't justified by the actual results.
An AP-Ipsos poll shows a sharp increase since the storm in the percentage of people who are most worried about the economy.
Of course it does. Let's stop, for just a moment, and consider what was happening in the media in this country before Katrina hit. Every day, in every outlet, it was all Iraq, all the time. As soon as the storm went through, and the refineries and supply lines went down, the story changed to Katrina and the rising gas prices, and the devastating economic impact. The fact that there's been a sharp increase in people being most concerned about the economy says nothing about George W. Bush.
CBS on Tuesday night delivered a sarcastic look at President Bush's visit to the Gulf coast. After reciting a list of problems people are having in New Orleans, reporter Sharyn Alfonsi jumped to a soundbite of Bush in Mississippi, declaring: “Every time I come back here, I see progress." Alfonsi gratuitously pointed out that Bush was “speaking inside an air-conditioned tent” and noted how “he toured a Folgers plant in Louisiana” but, she stressed, “small business owners say this kind of progress is the exception.” Then, over video of a row of damaged and abandoned store fronts in New Orleans, she countered: “This is the reality.” Alfonsi made it personal, holding Bush responsible for the frustrations of a French Quarter restaurant owner: “After five visits in three weeks, they want the President to wake up and smell the coffee.” (That cute line ran over video of Bush, in a sweat-soaked shirt, shaking hands at the coffee plant.) Restaurant owner Arly Questa demanded: "Hang out, no air-conditioning, eat some MRE's every day, and then you might really understand what it's been like down here in New Orleans."
The Gainesville Sun reports that the Alligator, the student newspaper of the University of Florida, has come under fire for a cartoon featuring rapper Kanye West and Condoleezza Rice. West stated during a nationally televised telethon that Bush doesn't care about black people.
"Andy Marlette's cartoon shows black rapper Kanye West, who two weeks ago said President George W. Bush doesn't care about black people at a fund-raiser for Hurricane Katrina victims, holding a playing card labeled 'The Race Card' while standing next to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The bubble over Rice's head contains the words: 'Nigga Please!'