Argghh, in light of all the love blogtopia (thanks, skippy) has been showing the NYT editorial from yesterday, I want to post something about the NYT reporting, which, given current events, had to be the worst day of reporting in the last year at that paper (and that's saying something). If you combine it with Ms. Bumiller's unbelievable defense of the American Nero photo and the front page headline supporting BushCo's lies about being unable to foresee the levees breaking, it starts to get surreal.
I don't have to write much since other, bigger places have picked up on the fawning, and in some cases, up-is-down reporting. Media Matters, for instance, caught Richard Stevenson, faithful White House lap dog, propagating Team BushCo's lies:
A September 1 New York Times article by reporter Richard W. Stevenson adopted the Bush administration's claim that "the work done since 2001 to better prepare the nation for a possible terrorist attack" was also "helping" the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) respond to the Gulf Coast crisis that has ensued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In fact, as noted in recent news reports by the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and in a Washington Post op-ed, the Bush administration reduced FEMA's status after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by folding the agency into the Department of Homeland Security, which likely hampered the agency's ability to respond to natural disasters like Katrina.
But the brave Stevenson will buck any trend to prop up Dear Leader in a time of need. The whole article is a cheerleading recount of what BushCo says WILL happen, which of course is the only thing anyone who wants to avoid the reality on the ground can write since nothing HAS happened to help the victims of the storm. So you get sections like this:
In cutting short his vacation and showing a quick federal response, Mr. Bush made it clear again that he had studied the mistakes of his father, who was widely criticized in 1992 as responding too slowly to Hurricane Andrew in Florida. Among the aides working alongside Mr. Bush on Wednesday was his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., who in 1992 led the task force set up by President George H. W. Bush to respond to the damage from Hurricane Andrew.
Sounds great, huh? Learned from mistakes, cut vacation short ... except this is all pie in the sky. The rest of the story is a breathless wish list of what BushCo plans to do.
Nearly 30,000 National Guard and active-duty service members will pour into the region
In the next 48 hours, some 10,000 Army and Air National Guard members from 13 states will flow into Mississippi and Louisiana,
preparing to deploy to the four-state region
Hundreds of military engineers will clear debris-choked roads to allow residents to leave and relief supplies to flow in. Hundreds of high-wheeled, five-ton trucks that can traverse floodwaters are on the way.
3,500 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., equipped with some 30 helicopters, were prepared to deploy on short notice if needed.
If needed. That's just great. What a leader! Can any of that equipment that's about to be deployed and is scheduled to flood the region by the weekend turn back time, because that's what the families of the dead and injured are looking for.
David Sanger, another embarassment to his profession, turned in a stunningly one-sided analysis piece that honestly may as well have been written by Nicole Devenish, WH PR flak. Check off the talking points in these few paragraphs alone:
All this has inextricably linked Mr. Bush's foreign agenda, especially Iraq, to the issue of how well he manages the federal response to the monumental problems in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Mr. Bush knows the risks. He saw up close the political damage done to his father 13 years ago this week, when the senior Mr. Bush was dispatching fighter jets to maintain a no-fly zone over parts of Iraq and promoting his trade agenda while 250,000 Floridians were reeling from the impact of Hurricane Andrew. (bring up the failure of his father as a learning experience for BushCo - check!)
But the current president, in contrast, prides himself as a crisis manager. He observed in a debate with Vice President Al Gore in 2000 that natural catastrophes were "a time to test your mettle." (cast BushCo as can-do guy, eager for a challenge - check!)
The next few weeks will determine whether he can manage several challenges at once, in the chaos of Iraq and the humanitarian and economic fallout along the Gulf Coast.
Success could help him emerge from a troubled moment in his presidency, when his approval ratings have hit an all-time low. But it is hardly assured. (define the parameters of what constitutes a successful response in terms of months ahead of us, excluding the time leading up to the disaster and the period immediately following - check!)
Jackpot! Someone call Ketchum PR Associates. David's on the job. But it gets worse. We get some of the most unbelievably sycophantic, self-serving quotes you're going to be able to find outside the Oval Office as Sanger digs deep to talk to BushCo's best buds to find out how he's doin'. First up: St. Joseph Allbaugh, BushCo political crony, unqualifed former FEMA director and current KBR lobbyist (along with his wife, Diane):
"If anyone is telling you that Iraq is getting in the way, well that's hogwash," Mr. Allbaugh said from Baton Rouge, where he was clinging to a bad cellphone connection while trying to help muster private industry to aid in the disaster relief.
And here the country was thinking that Iraq's blowing a hole in our budget and sucking up our military resources leaving us vulnerable to a crisis at home - an idea reinforced only by what we are currently witnessing. We're wrong! I'm glad that's cleared up. Later, this:
Mr. Bush's instinctive response to such moments, his longtime aides and friends say, is to set up measurements to determine whether his efforts are adequately addressing a problem. "He likes being a hands-on manager," said Mr. Allbaugh. "He wants numbers, he wants to be able to show that the ball is moving down the field." That was evident Wednesday in the Rose Garden, when Mr. Bush started ticking off statistics on the number of people rescued, the numbers of meals-ready-to-eat that have been delivered, the number of people already in shelters.
He's hands-on and instinctive like some sexy political beast. Moving that ball, speaking in gardens, giving speeches that frustrated and underwhelmed everyone else in the world but demonstrated to Sanger BushCo's political prowess. Up is down. But, It. Gets. Worse.
Here's Bob Martinez literally spinning the hell out of BushCo's lack of response to the disaster befalling his fellow Americans. I know you haven't heard this one before:
"The great thing about this president is that he doesn't try to use tragedy to gain immediate attention for himself," said Bob Martinez, a former governor of Florida who has endured his share of hurricanes and other disasters. "He talks to those with knowledge, and then he acts."
It's great! He's great! Martinez, who knows about hurricanes (???), sets us straight - BushCo doesn't act not because he's on vacation, he doesn't act because he doesn't care and/or doesn't have any idea how to act or care, he doesn't act because he doesn't want to steal the spotlight away from the victims. They need their fifteen minutes and when BushCo's done eating cake and holding presidential guitars and talking about his Medicare boondoggle and golfing and fishing and napping and "hangin' loose," and eventually talking to people with knowledge, he'll act. And David Sanger will be there to tell us that it was exactly the right thing to do.