CBS News Sunday Morning “contributor” Nancy Giles, in the only commentary aired on the show on Sunday, delivered a blistering diatribe in which she charged that racism was behind the slow response to the hurricane victims in New Orleans, rationalized looting, claimed the real war is the one on poverty that’s being lost thanks to tax cuts, and mocked President Bush for visiting Iraq but skipping the Superdome -- thus showing he doesn’t give “a damn” about black people.
Giles asserted that “if the majority of the hardest hit victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans were white people, they would not have gone for days without food and water” and insisted that “the real war is not in Iraq, but right here in America. It's the War on Poverty, and it's a war that's been ignored and lost.” She complained that “we've repeatedly given tax cuts to the wealthiest and left our most vulnerable American citizens to basically fend for themselves." Giles scolded Bush for finding photo-ops with some “black folks to hug” while he skipped “the messy parts of New Orleans.” She castigated Bush for how he “has put himself at risk by visiting the troops in Iraq, but didn't venture anywhere near the Superdome or the convention center, where thousands of victims, mostly black and poor, needed to see that he gave a damn."
Reuters News Service left little to the imagination of its readers as to who they believe is responsible for the death's associated with Hurricane Katrina. The story, "New Orleans collects dead as officials dodge blame" reads more like an opinion piece than it does a news report.
The opening paragraph is about as sneering and partisan as I have ever seen: "New Orleans began the gruesome task of collecting its thousands of dead on Sunday as the Bush administration tried to save face after its botched rescue plans left the city at the mercy of Hurricane Katrina."
On NBC’s The Chris Matthews Show this morning, Chris moved the discussion in the direction of blaming flooding problems in post-Katrina New Orleans, and the failure to shore up the levee system around the city, on funding for the Iraq war, as well as tax cuts:
A third of our national guard is in Iraq. A lot of our force level. We're not in con-- in conscription but basically everybody in the army is on the way to Iraq or coming back from it. We have an infrastructure problem. It means things like levees. It means things like highways. Protecting yourself from disasters. We have these issues. Could it be that we don't have the money, that in the end we're going to find out that the budget couldn't cover these items? There weren't enough helicopters. There wasn't enough to fix the levees because we're spending too much and not taxing enough -- I'm not selling taxes here but it could it be the books are out of order?
A Los Angeles Times article suggests that NBC made a mistake during last night's "Concert For Hurricane Relief" when it edited from its West Coast feed rapper Kanye West’s assertions that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”:
By censoring Grammy-winning rapper Kanye West's remarks critical of President Bush during its West Coast feed of the program Friday night, the network violated the most moving and essential moment in an otherwise sterile, self-serving corporate broadcast.
You'd think Kanye West's ill-informed remark ("George Bush doesn't care about black people": Newsbusters link) would be enough to illustrate how misguided it is to politicize a serious fundraiser. But MSNBC's blogger for the NBC/Red Cross event, Mike Miller, could not restrain himself as well. Is it that hard for some people to set aside political differences for just one hour in order to raise some money for some people who are really hurting? From Mike Miller's blog at MSNBC.com, in which he gave a chronological, running commentary of the event (emphasis mine):
5:41: ... "George Bush doesn't care about black people," West said. Myers turns to him and clearly has no idea what to say ...
5:54:Still can't believe Kanye West ripped Bush. That was great.
"Great"? What was great about it? West's view is flat-out wrong. As President, Bush has given tremendous support to Africans and African-Americans.
When David Brooks first joined the NY Times in September 2003, it initially seemed that he was going to be able to keep his conservative leanings, and would be a fine replacement for William Safire once the latter had retired. However, lately it seems that Mr. Brooks is being co-opted by others on the Times editorial staff.
In fact, his latest op-ed sounds like it could have been written by either Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd:
The scrapbook of history accords but a few pages to each decade, and it is already clear that the pages devoted to this one will be grisly. There will be pictures of bodies falling from the twin towers, beheaded kidnapping victims in Iraq and corpses still floating in the waterways of New Orleans five days after the disaster that caused them.
Katrina means that the political culture, already sour and bloody-minded in many quarters, will shift. There will be a reaction. There will be more impatience for something new. There is going to be some sort of big bang as people respond to the cumulative blows of bad events and try to fundamentally change the way things are.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday afternoon repeatedly prodded reluctant Congressional Black Caucus member Elijah Cummings to blame racism for delays in rescuing hurricane victims in New Orleans. Blitzer asked Cummings on The Situation Room: “Do you believe, if it was, in fact, a slow response, as many now believe it was, was it in part the result of racism?” When Cummings demurred from such a blanket accusation, Blitzer wouldn’t give up: “There are some critics who are saying, and I don't know if you're among those, but people have said to me, had this happened in a predominantly white community, the federal government would have responded much more quickly. Do you believe that?"
Later, on CNN’s NewsNight, Aaron Brown took up the same agenda with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones: “What I'm wondering is, do you think black America's sitting there thinking, if these were middle class white people, there would be cruise ships in New Orleans?” When she wouldn’t take the bait, Brown lectured: “Now, look, here's the question, okay? And then we'll end this. Do you think the reason that they're not there or the food is not there or the cruise ships aren't there or all this stuff that you believe should be there, isn't there, is a matter of race and/or class?”
Opening the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams predicted that the "catastrophic hurricane strike, and the U.S. government response to it, will in the years or decades to come, perhaps necessitate a national discussion on race, on oil, politics, class, infrastructure, the environment and more.” ABC’s Ted Koppel charged on Nightline that “the slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina has led to questions about race, poverty and a seemingly indifferent government.”
With little fanfare, the Houston Chronicle reported that Vice President Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, had been awarded a contract to assist in post-Katrina cleanup efforts:
The Navy has hired Houston-based Halliburton Co. to restore electric power, repair roofs and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Halliburton subsidiary KBR will also perform damage assessments at other naval installations in New Orleans as soon as it is safe to do so.
Given the media’s fascination with this company, along with the ongoing insinuations that the war in Iraq has been a financial boon for Halliburton, one has to wonder how this announcement will be disseminated by a currently scandal-hungry press.
Our friends over at the AP who never tire of using any excuse to Bush-bash are at it again in style.
In another of their rollicking “Newsviews,” Ron Fournier shouts, “Rhetoric Not Matching Relief.” Already implying that the nation is fingering Bush for the pain, suffering and death in New Orleans, Fournier goes on to accuse him of far worse:
Bush got himself in trouble by trying to put the best face on a horrible situation. The strategy is so common in Washington that operatives have a name for it, "spin," and the Bush White House has perfected the shady art.
The Associated Press posted an article by Barry Schweid detailing hurricane relief aid being sent by a number of other countries. In the process the writer just couldn't help taking a cheap shot at U.S. generosity, which has pumped billions of dollars in foreign aid to others in need. First there was this line which followed a paragraph about Japan's contributions to the disaster relief:
The United States historically has aided victims of disasters, but it is not universally recognized as providing the level of aid expected of a rich nation.
Then, a couple of paragraphs later we have another comment about American aid:
The United States, the world's largest economy, lags behind other rich nations in the percentage of its giving to nations in Africa, the world's poorest continent.
In the days since Hurricane Katrina struck, there has been a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing at the Bush administration concerning budget cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers that might have shored up the levee system surrounding New Orleans. The most recent such tirade comes from Times economic writer Paul Krugman:
Why wasn't more preventive action taken? After 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers sharply slowed its flood-control work, including work on sinking levees. "The corps," an Editor and Publisher article says, citing a series of articles in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, "never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security - coming at the same time as federal tax cuts - was the reason for the strain."
The Early Show on CBS treated FEMA Director Mike Brown and Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-LA) to tough questioning, although Brown was seared by co-host Hannah Storm while Harry Smith, reporting from New Orleans, only slightly singed the state's chief executive, and mostly on relief efforts underway now, not on what the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans could have done before the hurricane.
Below are the questions to Brown and Blanco respectively as I transcribed them.:
As depicted in a recent posting by NewsBusters own David Pierre, cable outlets like CNN have started to depict race as a "hindrance of choice" to the rescue efforts that are taking place on a massive scale in New Orleans. Predictably, old media outlets like the New York Times have followed suit.
In an article by the Times David Gonzalez, the fault lies not with a category 5 Hurricane, but with white people in general, and President Bush principally. Gonzalez starts out this way:
No longer mincing words, a New York Timeseditorial puts the blame for the current post-Katrina disaster area in New Orleans squarely on the backs of the Bush administration and its diverted attention to the war in Iraq:
Watching helplessly from afar, many citizens wondered whether rescue operations were hampered because almost one-third of the men and women of the Louisiana National Guard, and an even higher percentage of the Mississippi National Guard, were 7,000 miles away, fighting in Iraq. That's an even bigger loss than the raw numbers suggest because many of these part-time soldiers had to leave behind their full-time jobs in police and fire departments or their jobs as paramedics. Regardless of whether they wear public safety uniforms in civilian life, the guardsmen in Iraq are a crucial resource sorely missed during these early days, when hours have literally meant the difference between evacuation and inundation, between civic order and chaos, between life and death.
Anyone seen Kathleen Blanco lately? Remember her, the Democratic Governor of Louisiana, the lady who put in a few shaky, overwhelmed performances at the beginning of the Katrina catastrophe? She seems to have disappeared off the MSM radar screen.
How about the Mayor of New Orleans, another Democrat? How many Americans can even name him? Compare and contrast with the role Rudy Giuliani played in the wake of 9/11.
Instead, Today's focus this morning was almost entirely on the shortcomings of the federal [read Republican-led] government in its response to Katrina.
Katie Couric spoke of "the growing chorus of criticism over the government's response to this national crisis."
Chorus-leader Couric first grilled FEMA Director Michael Brown. Criticized about the lack of law and order, Brown said that by Sunday there would be 30,000 National Guard troops on the ground. That wasn't good enough for Katie, who after saying she didn't want to "belabor the point" went on to do just that, carping that "it seems like a pretty long lag time."