Katrina: Chris Matthews Hears What He Wants To

There’s no getting around it. Chris Matthews hears what he wants to hear even when the facts are right in front of him.

After showing the video of President Bush being briefed by Max Mayfield saying: "I don’t think anybody can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that’s obviously a very, very grave concern," Matthews took that as evidence that Bush lied when he said no one anticipated the breach of the levees.

Here’s what Matthews said after running a clip of the video: "Okay. There we saw it and I want to repeat something that I just read and I want to repeat it to you because I read a few minutes ago.

Here’s the President four days after Hurricane Katrina, that’s four days, actually five days after that briefing. ‘I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees,’ that’s the President. Kate O’Beirne, square those two facts, the briefing we just saw on tape and the President saying he was never briefed as to the possibility of the water coming over from Lake Pontchartrain."

O’Bierne clearly listening to the actual tape as opposed to whatever is running in Matthews’s head responded:

"I heard the fellow in front of the weather map saying we can’t predict this could happen and then I heard Michael Brown telling us what his gut was telling him. Unfortunately, when I watched, I guess The National Weather Service fellow at his map, we all bring a lot of skepticism to weather reports, Chris. In fact we’re habituated to thinking weather reports are wrong."

Matthews teased the Katie O'Bierne and Bob Shrum segment: "By the way, in just minutes, we’re expecting to see video obtained by the Associated Press of a briefing for President Bush that warned of Hurricane Katrina and its full dimensions to break down the levees, have the water come into New Orleans, the whole schlemiel here, the whole thing. Apparently the evidence is now that the President was briefed, even though several days afterwards he said they never expected the levees to break. We’ll wait and see if that videotape is as good as advertised when we get it in a few minutes." [...]

Matthews: "Let’s take a look at something Bob, we’ve got something hot here. The Associated Press has obtained a video from August 29th, now that’s the day before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, and here’s President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff being warned that the storm could breach levees and risk lives. Let’s watch."

[George W. Bush: "That we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm, but we will move in whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm to help you deal with the, with the loss of property and, and we pray for no loss of life of course."]

[Max Mayfield: "So if the really strong winds clip Lake Pontchartrain, that’s gonna pile some of that water from Lake Pontchartrain over on the south side of the lake. I don’t think anybody can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that’sobviously a very, very grave concern."]

[Michael Brown: "My gut tells me, I told you guys my gut was that this was a bad one and a big one and you heard Max’s comments. I still feel that way today."]

Matthews: "Okay. There we saw it and I want to repeat something that I just read and I want to repeat it to you because I read a few minutes ago. Here’s the President four days after Hurricane Katrina, that’s four days, actually five days after that briefing. ‘I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees,’ that’s the President. Kate O’Beirne, square those two facts, the briefing we just saw on tape and the President saying he was never briefed as to the possibility of the water coming over from Lake Pontchartrain."

Katie O’Bierne: "I heard the fellow in front of the weather map saying we can’t predict this could happen and then I heard Michael Brown telling us what his gut was telling him. Unfortunately, when I watched, I guess The National Weather Service fellow at his map, we all bring a lot of skepticism to weather reports, Chris. In fact we’re habituated to thinking weather reports are wrong. Look, the House committee I think did a comprehensive job on their report on Katrina, explaining government at every level failed miserably as did, as did the private sector."

Matthews: "But, but listen to this line. It’s almost like, I mean I like Condi Rice, she’s great, but she’s the one who said this thing, ‘I don’t think anybody anticipated using airplanes to bang into buildings.’ Well it was anticipated and there’s a record that it was. But here it is again Bob Shrum. You try this. This is the President. He didn’t say, ‘I didn’t expect the, the, the lakes to be over, to run over the levees.’ Here he says, ‘I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.’ Why a universal statement like that when it’s clear he was briefed as to the prospect that it might well happen?"

...

Matthews going to break: "More on this video by the way, this is one of those videos, ‘do you believe me or your lying eyes,’ as Groucho Marx used to say. This is Hardball only on MSNBC."

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Matthews coming back from the break: "Let’s take a look again at this new recording we just got tonight. It’s a video taken the day before Katrina hit New Orleans. Let’s watch. The President of the United States and Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, being briefed on what’s to come."

[George W. Bush: "And preparing your citizens for this, this, this huge storm. I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm, but we will move in whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm to help you deal with the loss, with the loss of property and, we pray for no loss of life, of course."]

Matthews: "Well there’s the President. That’s a bit of it, of course. And, Kate, you don’t think that suggests any failure to communicate fully by the President thereafter when he said four days after Katrina hit, that I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees?"

O’Bierne, once again incredulous at Matthews' analysis: "No. I heard the expert opinion say that nobody can say with confidence whether or not the, the levees will hold. Look, the government responds at every level. And as I said according to the House committee, even the private sector was bureaucratic and sluggish and unimaginative. This is not a surprise to we conservatives when it comes to government. Now they are doing their lessons learned business. But certain things like bureaucracy, lack of creativity, risk averse bureaucrats, that comes with government."

Matthews: "Have you ever heard a president say he wasn’t aware of the situational reality somewhere and that the news media, particularly television broadcast television, was ahead of the government? That’s what he said with regard to Katrina. That the people like Brian Williams and the other networks, people like Anderson Cooper were on top of the story before he was aware of the significance of those people being stranded down there. He’s admitting this."

O’Bierne: "Yeah I’ve heard, I’ve heard him make the point that because the news was right there, which federal representatives weren’t, yeah, he learned as we all did, from the news media."

Matthews concluded with the following blanket statement: "Amazing. Bob Shrum, this is amazing because, you know, it gets back to the point where you both admitted in a nonpartisan fashion that there’s a disconnect when, when the President is not on top of things. Usually you hear things from the President. Here we, he hears things from television. And he doesn’t watch television."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.