Topic: Bush Administraiton
The NYT published its interview with Michael Brown today, the former FEMA chief, in which he blames FEMA’s delays in getting aid to Louisiana on Governor Kathleen Blanco for not letting him know what the state needed. He says, “I truly believed the White House was not at fault here.” He claims he made “a blur of calls” to Michael Chertoff and Andy Card to tell them that, “things were going to hell in a handbasket.”
The Times writes that a senior White House official confirms the calls were made but disputes the calls had the “urgency or desperation he described in the interview.” This tracks with the memo Brown sent to Chertoff five hours after the hurricane struck when he asked for 1000 employees to deploy to the area within 48 hours and ended the letter by writing, “Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities.” Doesn’t exactly sound like he was as worried about the situation as he claims.
Still, despite the obvious attempt to cover his own ass, the overall impression you get from the interview is that, here was a guy with basically had no authority to do anything without someone above him signing off on it. He says at one point, on the day before the hurricane hit, he was so frustrated with Mayor Nagin not calling for a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans that he asked Bush to call him and tell him to. According to Brown, Bush asked, “Mike, you want me to call the Mayor?” That’s pretty incredible, if true.
It will be very interesting to see whether the administration decides to do about either protecting Brown or setting him up as a scapegoat when the shit hits the fan. Once the investigations get going we’ll see if Brown takes a bullet for the president or goes off the reservation and actually comes clean on what was really going on at the White House.
Although, he might want to think twice about the latter option: buried in an article about Bush’s big speech tonight was this revelation; “Republicans said Karl Rove…was in charge of the reconstruction effort.” “Brownie” might want to consider moving his family out of the country before they become “fair game,” in Turd Blossom’s eyes.
So, Karl Rove is in charge of the reconstruction effort. That’s pretty startling. This brings a few questions to mind: like what does Karl Rove know about reconstructing an entire city, and doesn’t this really have more to do with reconstructing W.’s crumbling poll numbers? I mean, really. Is there anything in this administration Rove doesn’t have his hands all over?
[Just an aside on Rove: Besides the Plame investigation, there is also potentially worse scandal waiting in the wings over Rove’s involvement with Jack Abramoff and his lobbying for Tyco International. Newsweek reports that Tim Flanigan, a former White House lawyer nominated by President Bush for deputy attorney hired Abramoff to lobby against a law barring federal contracts to companies incorporated in offshore tax havens. "Abramoff, who raised more than $100,000 for Bush's re-election, allegedly told Flanigan he'd lobby White House aide Karl Rove on behalf of Tyco, says the source close to the company. Rove, whose secretary formerly worked for Abramoff, has "never spoken to [Abramoff] about any of his clients," says a White House spokeswoman.: Oh, and you can beleieve that.]
Chertoff to move to secure, undisclosed location?
Yes, Michael Brown had no business being in the position he was in, but he is in no way the only shoe that’s going to drop in this growing national disgrace. There is no doubt that Chertoff is getting a big time pass so far. Hours before Ted Koppel beheaded Brown on Nightline on the 31st, NPR had an interview with Michael Chertoff asking about the convention center situation and he said he would decline to comment on “rumors” about thousands of people stranded at the center. This in the face of TV reports beginning the day before and an NPR reporter’s eyewitness account of the deplorable conditions there just before NPR’s Robert Segal talked to him.
The Inquirer reports that Chertoff was in charge of the federal response, not Brown, according to the National Response Plan and Chertoff had the authority to order federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials.
According to a memo which will become more and more important as this goes along, Chertoff waited 36 hours after the Katrina struck before declaring an “Incident of National Significance,” which was needed to get the federal ball rolling, including getting Rummy moving to get troops down to the area, which didn’t happen until Saturday, five days after the storm.
There will, no doubt, be many questions about why this declaration wasn’t made the moment the National Hurricane Center warned anybody who would listen that “The Big One” was coming.
Last week I asked why a Navy hospital ship waited until the Friday after Katrina to set sail for New Orleans. I still don’t know, but the Comfort didn’t actually make it to New Orleans after all. It seems that just as it was about to make port, Trent Lott somehow got it diverted to Pascagoula Miss. Henry Holcomb of the Inquirer writes that the ship of 660 people, 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms is treating an undisclosed number of patients for cuts, burns and bug bites. Obviously, Mississippi is probably not getting the kind of attention is deserves because the media is focusing on New Orleans, but is there really the need for a ship of that size in Pascagoula, that’s also costing $700,000 a day to operate? Boy, you’ve got to feel DHS has a really has a handle on the federal response now, when a senator can just make a phone call and divert an entire ship to his state and no one even notices.
NATO to hold baby?
Yesterday, amidst the news about the Katrina recovery and the John Roberts hearings, there was the story, deep in the papers, about the US considering troop reductions in Afghanistan. My faithful readers will remember me writing about an article in the Guardian about British defense officials being worried about the US leaving the Brits to “hold the baby” in Afghanistan.
The NYT says the pentagon is talking about reducing troops levels by about 20% and the idea is NATO will take over the fight against the “routed” and continually more and more “desperate” Taliban insurgency.
John Abazaid says, “It makes sense that as NATO forces go in, and they’re more in numbers, that we could drop some US requirements somewhat.” I quess, it makes sense if NATO is actually interested in taking up the fight against the Taliban, but unfortunately, they’re not. Yesterday in Berlin, NATO rejected Rummy’s suggestion that they pick up our slack. AP reports that, “Germany, France, and Spain made clear at a meeting in Berlin that they would not allow 11,000 NATO peacekeepers in the Central Asian nation to become embroiled in the military effort to quell a Taliban led insurgency.” Um…let’s see ignore Germany, punish France, nuke Spain. Was that it? That’ll show em’. 
In Iraq today more car bombs from the ever more desperate and weakened insurgency killed 30 Iraqis, mainly policemen. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari better come up with a better plan than chasing the insurgents all over the Syrian border pretty quick, because this Katrina thing is getting kind of expensive both financially and politically. 9It looks like the insurgents might have "fled" to Baghdad.)
The NYT says, “American officials traveling with Mr. Bush said that they wondered how successful the White House would be in allocating more reconstruction aid for Iraq now that the hurricane damage will soak up so many American resources. ‘It seems clear,’ one senior official traveling with Mr. Bush said, ‘that the days of American larges for Iraq are coming to a close.”
But that may not be an issue after all, because Jaafari says the car bomb attacks that killed 152 and wounded over 500 yesterday just showed the insurgency’s “desperation and cowardice in the face of set backs they have suffered in Tal Afar and elsewhere at the hands of Iraqi security forces.” If that’s the case, I say we declare victory and go. Let the Shiites and the Peshmerga mop up and get our guys out of there. (Nice of him to thank the US forces that had their back, by the way.)
Scott Speicher. Again.
AP: The Navy has been unable to determine whether Michael Scott Speicher, the fighter pilot shot down over Iraq in January 1991, is dead or alive, but it decided to keep his official status "missing/captured" and intensify investigative efforts." Unbelievable!
See Non Sun Dignus
for more on my Scott Speicher problem.