Over at Brainster, there is an item about the media seizing on Bush's statement that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breaching of the levees." Eleanor Clift said Bush "will regret those words just as Condoleezza Rice did her comment that nobody could imagine a plane flying into a building like a missile."
But all the predictions and simulations before Katrina predicted nothing but water going above the levees, not breaking them.
"Hurricane Pam brought sustained winds of 120 mph, up to 20 inches of rain in parts of southeast Louisiana and storm surge that topped levees in the New Orleans area. More than one million residents evacuated and Hurricane Pam destroyed 500,000-600,000 buildings. Emergency officials from 50 parish, state, federal and volunteer organizations faced this scenario during a five-day exercise held this week at the State Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge.
In another New York Timesstory seemingly spurred by Democratic complaints, Philip Shenon reports Wednesday: "The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that his office had received accusations of fraud and waste in the multibillion-dollar relief programs linked to Hurricane Katrina and would investigate how no-bid contracts were awarded to several large, politically well-connected companies."Of course, there's an Iraq connection: "Their comments appeared to be a response, in part, to charges from Democratic lawmakers that such a large, hurriedly organized federal relief program could produce the sort of contract abuses, cronyism and waste that numerous investigations have identified in the Bush administration's reconstruction programs in postwar Iraq."
"[IG Richard Skinner] said that his investigators would focus on several no-bid contracts awarded over the last two weeks to large, politically influential companies, including the Fluor Corporation of California, a major donor to the Republican Party, and the Shaw Group of Baton Rouge, La. Shaw is a client of Joe M. Allbaugh, a consultant who is the former head of FEMA and was President Bush's campaign manager in 2000. Another of Mr. Allbaugh's clients -- Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, the giant defense contractor once led by Vice President Dick Cheney -- is doing major repairs at Navy facilities along the Gulf Coast that were damaged by the hurricane. That work is being done under a $500 million contract with the Defense Department."
Call me idealistic, but I somehow always expect that correspondents, videographers, and editors -- especially those on network shows -- will learn to hold themselves to higher reporting and promotion standards in the inteest of ojectivity. Of course, I nearly always wind up asking myself, "What were you thinking?"
Perhaps, though, it would just be easier to ask the folks on CNN and Reuters the same thing. Twice today, I saw them employ typical promotional manipulation tactics of George Bush's taking responsibility for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and wind up changing the context of his so-called accountability.
In the first instance, Reuters used the headline 'BUSH: I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.' But in reality, what he really said was, "...government failed at all levels, Federal, state, and local. TO THE EXTENT THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DIDN'T FULLY DO ITS JOB RIGHT, I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY," adding that he wants a full report on the breakdowns and where they occured so he presumably knows what "the extent" IS.
There were some gruesome findings yesterday in New Orleans.
Some were discovered in a hospital. Others in a nursing home.
Yet, this didn’t stop New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd from continuing her bitter evisceration of our president.
No, not a moment’s mourning for this crusader. Not a second to consider the innocents that were lost in these medical facilities, or the friends and family members who are grieving.
Instead, Ms. Dowd gets more and more vitriolic and venomous with each passing day. Just listen to her apparent glee as she announces the increase in the hurricane fatalities while linking responsibility to the White House:
[Brent Baker posted this item on behalf of MRC President Brent Bozell to provide for a discussion on his blog page about his TV appearance.] On Tuesday's NewsNight, CNN anchor Aaron Brown set up an interview with Bozell by complaining that “we were called a 'race-baiter' by a conservative media Web site. Needless to say, we don't agree, which made our conversation with the piece's author, Brent Bozell, that much more interesting tonight.” Brown pleaded to Bozell: “Why do you call me, little old innocent me, you know, why do you call me a 'race-baiter' for asking the question [clip from an earlier show]: 'Do you think black America is sitting there thinking, “If these were middle class white people, there'd be cruise ships in New Orleans, not the Superdome”?"
In fact, the “race-baiter” formulation did not appear in Bozell's column, but was in a September 3 NewsBusters headline: “Race-Baiting by Blitzer and Brown; Race Raised by Williams and Koppel.”
Excerpts from the previous NewsBusters item and Bozell's column with which Brown took exception, plus a transcript of the September 13 CNN interview follow.
A little something from Sunday's Face the Nation that shouldn't go unnoticed: Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu (LA), unable to cite, off-hand, examples which illustrated her allegation that the White House was orchestrating a smear campaign of local officials who responded to Hurricane Katrina, told host Bob Schieffer that he need only ask various "journalists throughout town."
About eight minutes into the program, host Bob Schieffer asked Landrieu: "Do you think the White House is trying to put the blame on local officials?"
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) began a stemwinder of an answer: "I am unfortunately aware that, yes, they are. While the president is saying he wants to work together as a team, I think the White House operatives have a full-court press on to blame state and local officials, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, whether it's Haley Barbour or Kathleen Blanco, whether it's Mayor Nagin or a Republican mayor from Mississippi. And it's very unfortunate.
Landrieu then went on to assert that FEMA was underfunded and underequipped for the disaster, after which Schieffer pressed her, "That's a very strong charge you've just leveled. What are some examples of that?"
Landrieu replied, "Well, I think that there are journalists throughout town that can give you those examples, and I'll be happy to provide more detail as the week unfolds..."
Schieffer didn't press the case further than that, but it's rather telling that a liberal Democrat, unable to substantiate her rhetoric, would urge a liberal journalist he need only consult his colleagues to see that her claims are valid.
Criticism for budget deficits has been replaced by calls for big government
As quickly as the water started rising in New Orleans, America’s media began blaming Hurricane Katrina-related damages on the president’s 2001 and 2003 economic stimulus packages. The overriding theme the first week after Katrina hit was that the levees of Louisiana failed due to a lack of federal funding stemming from “tax cuts for the rich.” However, a closer look at the federal budget reveals that funding for departments and agencies administering U.S. “Physical Resources” – Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Transportation, Environmental Protection, etc. – increased by 35 percent during George W. Bush’s first term.
But the media have claimed that tax cuts reduced our nation’s ability to protect New Orleans from a natural disaster.
Early Show co-host Julie Chen interviewed CBS's resident homeland security expert, Randy Larsen, about FEMA director Mike Brown's resignation. Larsen offered perhaps the most balanced analysis of all the Hurricane Katrina coverage on CBS, noting that FEMA's scope and mission are not all-encompassing, and that local and state officials are supposed to remain in charge of disaster recovery, rescue, and cleanup efforts, with FEMA in a secondary role. This of course, cuts against the bias CBS News has had on hurricane relief. CBS has failed to ask New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin nor Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco on where they failed before and after the hurricane struck and what they are doing, if anything, to take responsibility.
Following the resignation of Michael Brown as the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Richard Stevenson writes in Tuesday's New York Times:
"Mr. Brown had become a political liability to the White House, even in his constrained new role. Democrats in Congress had been questioning how the administration could retain him in such an important job as director of FEMA after his performance in responding to the hurricane. A poll taken over the weekend by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, a nonpartisan research organization, found that more than 6 in 10 respondents judged the federal government's response to be fair or poor. A variety of polls in recent days have found Mr. Bush's approval ratings at or near their lows, with his support eroding even among Republicans."
Katie Couric brought on presidential historian Michael Beschloss to ask if Katrina will damage Bush's legacy. At the top of the show at 7:00 am Couric teased the upcoming segment: "Will this storm hurt President Bush's ability to accomplish his second term agenda and what impact will it have on his legacy? We'll talk with a top historian about that."
At 7:12 am Couric sat down with Beschloss in studio and opened with the following questions:
Couric: "On Close Up this morning how much damage has hurricane Katrina done to the Bush presidency? Michael Beschloss is NBC's presidential historian. Michael, good morning...So President Bush went to New Orleans to, to view the devastation for the third time. It's the first time he saw it, actually from the ground. Will the damage done, in terms of the slow response by the federal government, continue to haunt this President?"
The Washington Post has fun juxtaposing hurricane headlines and graphics today. The top left of the front page reads "45 Bodies Found In La. Hospital." The subhead is "Bush Visits New Orleans and Defends Federal Response; FEMA Chief Quits." I doubt the Post would have merged a Democratic president's actions with the somewhat unrelated discovery of bodies. Reporter Doug Struck notes "The news of the grim recovery, the largest such discovery since Hurricane Katrina struck, came hours after President Bush completed a tour of parts of the city and spoke to local officials."
But right under the 45-bodies-found headline is a pie graph showing "Bush Approval Falls," with 54 percent disapproving of Bush's handling of "the situation caused by Hurricane Katrina." (For poll analysis on how the Post purposely oversampled blacks, and then merged them into the "record low" Bush rating, see the Ankle Biting Pundits.)
ABC News can't seem to figure out what percent of whites in their latest poll believe that the response to Katrina would have been faster “if the victims were wealthy and white,” with World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas (20 percent), an on-screen graphic (21 percent) and ABCNews.com (24 percent) all offering a different percentage. And while Vargas highlighted Monday night how “dissatisfaction...with the government's response to the hurricane is growing and hurting President Bush's overall approval rating. It now stands at just 42 percent, the lowest it's ever been,” in a WashingtonPost.com article posted at 5:30pm EDT, Richard Morin pointed out that “Bush isn't the biggest loser in the post-Katrina blame game.” Indeed, though 45 percent said Bush deserved a “great deal” or “good amount” of blame for “problems” in the response, 57 percent said the same about state and local officials.
Like Vargas, ABC News polling analyst Gary Langer skipped those numbers as he focused his online posting on how “on Katrina, opinion has moved further away from Bush and his administration.”
Transcript from ABC and excerpts from ABCNews.com and WashingtonPost.com follow.
The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller has an article today that continues to dwell on the supposed impact that racism had on the immediacy of hurricane recovery efforts, and how this is hurting the president as well as Republicans:
“The storm also appears to have damaged the carefully laid plans of Karl Rove, President Bush's political adviser, to make inroads among black voters and expand the reach of the Republican Party for decades to come.
“Many African-Americans across the country said they seethed as they watched the television pictures of the largely poor and black victims of Hurricane Katrina dying for food and water in the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center.”
Ms. Bumiller felt it was necessary to quote a rapper in her political analysis:
“The anger has invigorated the president's critics. Kanye West, the rap star, raged off-script at a televised benefit for storm victims that ‘George Bush doesn't care about black people.’"
This morning Today show viewers woke up to the following from Katie Couric: "Good morning. Up close and personal. With his approval ratings at an all-time low President Bush gets set to take his first ground tour of New Orleans." Co-host David Gregory, subbing for Matt Lauer then piped in: Katie the President is making his third trip this morning to the hurricane zone but it's really it's first detailed look at New Orleans. He, of course, has taken a major political hit through all of this."
Later at 7:04am in a taped segment Kelly O'Donnell piled on as well:
"A less visible part of the damage done by Katrina may be what's happened to the President's approval rating." O'Donnell then threw it to Charlie Cook for his doom and gloom analysis of the President's current standing:
Ten times? A dozen? Maybe more? Eventually I lost count of the number of times that this morning's Today show trumpeted President Bush's low poll ratings. This was liberal schadenfreude on steroids.
In the very first words out of her mouth opening the show, Katie Couric spoke of W's ratings being at an "all-time low," while archly noting that W's visit today was his first "ground tour" of New Orleans.
While the delight in W's political distress was unrelenting for the remainder of opening half-hour, the low point came from NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell, who attributed the basest and most cynically political motives to W in his efforts to aid New Orleans.
As O'Donnell put it, "to repair perceived damage over the initial federal response, Washington is throwing billions at the problems."
Harlingen, Texas, September 10, 2005: You need to look long and hard if you are attempting to find any information about the use of tugboats, towboats or barges in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. In fact, the only reference to these watercraft noted was in a September 1, 2005 Reuters pool release. It stated “A tugboat pushes barges past an oil refinery in southern Louisiana. Rotting bodies littered New Orleans’ streets on Thursday and troops headed in to control looting and violence, as thousands of desperate survivors of Hurricane Katrina pleaded to be evacuated from the flooded city, or even just fed.”
All too often the media is charged with slanting its coverage or placing emphasis on the wrong elements of a story. The media is even guiltier of failing to follow up on news elements, or examining them in any depth. One could say those who report for both the print and electronic media are often guilty of the sin of omission.
Some calm and dispassionate political analysis Saturday night on Comedy Central's Weekends at the DL. Actress/comedian Kathy Griffin delivered not comedy but her vitriolic personal opinion as she shouted, to loud audience applause while she gesticulated with her arms: “The President is a moron! I'm saying it. I don't care. He's an idiot. Cheney is evil. I'm sick of, impeach them, get them out! I hate them! I hate them. Get them out. They got to go!" She later pleaded: “What is it going to take for you people? Get Bush out! Impeach! Out! Out! Out!” Griffin also denounced FNC's Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity: “He and Hannity can suck it. I hate those two idiots! Those liars.”
Griffin is the star of the reality show, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the d-List on NBC-Universal's Bravo cable channel, a regular on the E! channel's “red carpet” coverage before awards ceremonies, has had roles in several movies, as well as appearing on such TV shows as NBC's Suddenly Susan sit-com and currently on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
On September 3, a question was asked here: “How Will Hurricane-Related Halliburton Contract Be Reported?” Yesterday, Reuters answered this with an article entitled “Firms With Bush Ties Snag Katrina Deals.”
“Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast.
“One is Shaw Group Inc. and the other is Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President Dick Cheney is a former head of Halliburton.”
A lot of focus was given to Vice President Cheney in this article:
The mainstream press does not always blame only Republicans or conservatives. There's a tendency in some quarters to believe that, but it's not true. What is true, however, is that the tendency to blame or criticize Republicans and/or conservatives is much, much stronger than the tendency to blame Democrats and/or liberals. This fact manifests itself in a couple of different ways. The first thing that happens is that a Democrat can get away with things that a Republican just can't. Trent Lott, for example, made an offhand remark at a birthday party for Strom Thurmond that could be read as racist, and the outcry was immediate and widespread. When Richard Durbin went to the floor of the Senate to make comments that were far more inflammatory and inappropriate, comparing the US military to Nazis and genocidal Cambodian dictators, there was no coverage at all for several days, and the little coverage it eventually got didn't compare to what Lott got. The other thing that happens is that Democratic follies and foibles tend to get grouped with others by Republicans, and presented in "everybody does it" arguments. I've said for years that there are three mainstream blame assessment scenarios: if the Republicans are wrong, they get blamed; if both parties are wrong, the Republicans get blamed; and if the Democrats are wrong, both parties get blamed.
On CNN’s The Situation Room last evening, Wolf Blitzer adroitly set up Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean with questions surrounding racism in Hurricane Katrina rescue and prevention efforts:
“Do you believe the response from the federal government, the Bush administration specifically, the president of the United States, that there were racist or racial overtones in that response?”
“Some, as you know, critics of the president, Kanye West, the rap artist, have accused him of being a racist. I want you to listen to what Laura Bush said last night.”
On Fox News this morning, Geraldo Rivera claimed that the New York Times’ Allessandra Stanley lied about him pushing people in New Orleans so his camera crew could catch him assisting folks being evacuated from a retirement home. Please reference Ian Schwartz’s post from Tuesday concerning this.
“The New York Times has lied about me. And they have an arrogance, an institutional arrogance that somehow prohibits them from admitting their mistake. And it’s really embarrassing. So, here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to provide to any journalistic outfit that wants it the entire uncut, unedited tape of what happened to me and what I was doing helping the airforce guys to evacuate that retirement home. And there is no first-year journalism student anywhere on the planet that will agree with their assessment. And the fact that they refuse to correct is an arrogance, it’s an anti-Fox bias. It’s also a kind of superiority…a social and cultural superiority.”
For almost two weeks since Katrina devastated New Orleans, America’s media have been lambasting the president for not properly funding the Army Corps of Engineers. An article at CNSNews this week deals specifically with a NY Times hypocrisy in this regard.
This morning, NY Times columnist John Tierney has an op-ed suggesting that much of the media – including the Times – might have no clothes on:
“Or suppose the investigators try to find out why the Army Corps of Engineers didn't protect New Orleans from the flood. Democrats have blamed the Iraq war for diverting money and attention from domestic needs. But that hasn't meant less money for the Corps during the past five years. Overall spending hasn't declined since the Clinton years, and there has been a fairly sharp increase in money for flood-control construction projects in New Orleans.
“The problem is that the bulk of the Corps's budget goes for projects far less important than preventing floods in New Orleans. And if the investigators want to find who's responsible, they don't have to leave Capitol Hill.”
During the Friday night (SOS) Saving OurSelves: The BET Relief Telethon, actor/comedian Steve Harvey and singer/actress Queen Latifah came to rapper Kanye West's defense. Harvey imparted: “We love you, brother. And do keep your head up, and we understand what you were trying to say, and you have a lot of people's support in spite of all the ridicule that you're receiving, man. Do stay strong.” Latifah saw West as a martyr, chiming in with how “you always going to pay to speak what's on your mind and what's on your heart. But that don't mean you shouldn't say it.”
Last Friday (Sept. 2), on NBC's Concert for Hurricane Relief, West ludicrously contended that “we already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now fighting another way and they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.” He later added this slam: “George Bush doesn't care about black people." (Previous NewsBusters item on West.)
NPR's All Things Considered tonight carried a story from reporter Frank Langfitt focusing on how Wal-Mart brought their efficient distribution system to bear in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, particularly in Kenner, Louisiana, where their supplies arrived before federal or Red Cross help. He did conclude by noting that Wal-Mart is videotaping their charity for reporters. But hey, why not? Wal-Mart has been quite a whipping boy for negative media coverage.
The Free Market Project folks note a positive Washington Post story in the "Quoteworthy" box on their home page as well.
What would you do if you opened up your morning newspaper or turned on the local television news and found grisly photos of one of your parents, or a brother, sister, uncle, cousin or a close personal friend? You would be outraged. And rightfully so.
But some of my colleagues in the mainstream media claim they can’t report properly the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unless the Federal Emergency Management Agency allows them to photograph dead bodies up close and personal.
Their claim came in response to FEMA’s refusal to allow journalists to accompany recovery teams searching for victims of the disaster.
"It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story," said Larry Siems of the PEN American Center, according to a Reuters story.
After nearly two weeks of media carping about a slow federal response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, tonight ABC will air a story critical of the federal government for listing a charity which is providing hurricane relief -- one founded by Pat Robertson. Viewers of Thursday's World News Tonight were treated to this promo: “Tomorrow: He wanted the U.S. to assassinate a world leader. Now the U.S. is recommending his charity as second only to the Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina donations. The politics of Katrina relief and Pat Robertson, tomorrow, only on World News Tonight.” (As the announcer said that, ABC displayed video clips of Robertson, Hugo Chavez, hurricane destruction, the name “Operation Blessing” and Robertson with a frowning face as he prayed.)
I don't know how the feds made Operation Blessing “second only to the Red Cross,” but below are links to Operation Blessing and a FEMA press release which lists Operation Blessing fourth, after the Humane Society. And why should victims suffer just because the founder of one relief group, who has nothing to do with day-to-day operations, said something dumb?
UPDATED 9:10pm EDT with what aired.
On Tuesday, I posted an item about how Harry Smith worried that Christians who put up Hurricane Katrina evacuees in their homes might force their guests to attend church in order to eat breakfast. It was a silly question in an otherwise non-biased interview with Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life. Well, our favorite religious scholar made another gaffe today which similarly shows his ignorance about the beliefs of his interview subjects.
Friday's "news analysis" by Richard Stevenson, "The President From 9/11 Has Yet to Reappear," follows in the slanted footsteps of his previous one. The text box reads: "Still looking for vision in the face of national calamity."
"Nine days after the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush stood before a joint session of Congress and rallied the nation to a new mission. On Thursday, nine days after it became apparent that New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Bush stood in an auditorium across the street from the White House and directed storm victims to a Web site and a toll-free telephone number. There are obvious differences between the situations. But while the first showed Mr. Bush capable of commanding the nation's attention, transcending partisanship and clearly articulating a set of goals, the second has left him groping to find his voice and set out a vision of how the government and the American people should respond."
Stevenson implies Bush is some kind of conservative hypocrite: "But as Thursday's performance made clear, he has remained small bore in addressing the crisis, casting himself more as a manager than a leader. And as someone who regularly cites the virtues of limited government, he has been somewhat out of character in unleashing rather than reining in the kinds of social welfare programs he urged the storm's victims to sign up for on Thursday….But most of the rest of his speech was a guide to government assistance programs, including Medicaid, assistance for needy families, food stamps, housing and job training, many of which he has tried to trim in the name of leaner government."
Stevenson then suggests that waiving a union-backed requirement in order to speed up relief indicates a lack of compassion: "Mr. Bush's effort to strike a compassionate tone were also complicated by his decision to waive a requirement that employers who receive federal government contracts related to the relief effort pay their workers the prevailing wages for that kind of work in the area it is being done. The White House said the change was made to save the government money. John J. Sweeney, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O, called it 'unbelievable and outrageous.'"
Speaking of compassion, Wal-Mart, long attacked in the Times for being anti-union, donated $15 million to Hurricane Katrina relief. We'll see if the AFL-CIO proves equally generous.
Go to TimesWatch for more coverage of bias in the New York Times.
The BBC reports that tonight's telethon to help victims of Hurricane Katrina will not be cut to "edit political statements out" of the live show. The BBC also reports that Kanye West has again been invited to perform. During NBC's telethon last week, West deviated from the script to say "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
"No special precautions will be taken to edit political statements out of a live US TV benefit for Hurricane Katrina survivors, the show's producer said...
"Producer Joel Gallen said the Shelter From the Storm telethon would be shown with a standard 30-second delay.
"This will guard against any obscenities, said Mr Gallen, who added that he had spoken to all musicians and actors on the line-up about not detracting from the show's fundraising purpose.