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Transcript: Bush Worried About Levees

Which paper do you read?

How about the Times Picayune:

The day storm hit, Bush was worried about levees

Transcript shows gap in concern, action
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — On the day that Hurricane Katrina roared ashore, President Bush and a top presidential aide were worried about whether New Orleans’ levees had held, according to a transcript of discussions among disaster officials on the front lines of the storm.

Those concerns, expressed about midday Aug. 29, are in contrast to an image of a detached president and also to what happened later that night. That’s when an official manning the federal emergency operations center held off acting on reports of levee breaches as he waited for confirmation.

The White House was chastised recently by a House committee for not moving more quickly to address the failed levees that ultimately plunged 80 percent of New Orleans under water.

The transcript, obtained by The Times-Picayune, illustrates the gulf at the highest levels of government between concern for the disaster and action.

The document is a transcription of one of the daily video teleconferences conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and involving sometimes dozens of local, state and federal emergency workers. The calls were meant to encapsulate what was happening in the disaster zone and coordinate emergency response.

Transcripts of calls from the days before the storm and the days afterward have surfaced as part of House and Senate investigations into the slow government response to Katrina. But the transcript for the Aug. 29 conference call, initiated about six hours after the storm hit, had been missing. An official with the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the call had been recorded by one of the participants and only recently came to light.

During the call, which began at noon, then-FEMA Director Michael Brown says that he had already spoken to President Bush twice that day.

"He remains very, very interested in this situation," Brown said. "He’s obviously watching the television a lot, and he had some questions about the Dome, he’s asking questions about reports of breaches. He’s asking about hospitals. He’s very engaged, and he’s asking a lot of really good questions I would expect him to ask."

Later in the call, White House aide Joe Hagin asks specifically about the condition of the levees. Gov. Kathleen Blanco tells him that no failures were confirmed — yet.

"We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees," Blanco said. "I think we have not breached the levee. We have not breached the levee at this point in time. That could change, but in some places we have floodwaters coming in New Orleans East and the line at St. Bernard Parish where we have waters that are 8- to 10-feet deep, and we have people swimming in there, that’s got a considerable amount of water."

Brown told congressional investigators that had the White House been monitoring the calls, "They would have known what was going on."

Blanco aide Bob Mann said that confirmation would come by early afternoon. Blanco would later tell a TV news reporter that she was getting reports of a levee breach.

It would be about 10:30 p.m. when a FEMA official in New Orleans sent an urgent message to the federal operations center reporting a breach in the 17th Street Canal levee. The operations center waited hours before acting on the report. A recent House investigation said had it acted sooner, the White House could have accelerated evacuations of people stranded at the Superdome.

On the call, Col. Jeff Smith, a top disaster official in Louisiana, can be heard praising the work of FEMA.

"The coordination and support we are getting from FEMA has just been outstanding," Smith said. "So, I think a lot of the planning that FEMA has done with us over the last year has really paid off in this particular operation."

FEMA, of course, has been sharply criticized since soon after the storm for failing to delivering supplies to those in need and coordinating the emergency response with state and local officials.

Mann, Blanco’s aide, said it wasn’t until later that the problems with FEMA became evident.

"At that time everything seemed harmonious," Mann said. "We thought we had a 100 percent partner."

But never mind all that. The point is to attack Bush for not being all knowing, all seeing, all powerful — all the time.

You know, the man they call a “chimp.”

By the way, what exact difference would it have made if the people in the Superdome had been evacuated earlier? Nobody died there, last I heard. They were just mildly inconvenienced.

This is just one more attempt by our seditious one party media to assassinate our elected President with a thousand paper cuts.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, March 1st, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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