When former FEMA chief Michael Brown testified in February before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee investigating the government’s failings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that he felt like a scapegoat “abandoned” by the Bush administration, I thought he might have a point but figured that he was just as much part of the problem as Bush and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff were.
However, the Associated Press has obtained video of briefings conducted in the days before Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast that seem to bolster Brown’s claims.
Linked by secure video, Bush’s bravado on Aug. 29 starkly contrasts with the dire warnings his disaster chief and a cacophony of federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm.
A top hurricane expert voiced “grave concerns” about the levees and then- Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown told the president and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren’t enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome.
“I’m concerned about … their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe,” Brown told his bosses the afternoon before Katrina made landfall.
Some of the footage conflicts with the defenses that federal, state and local officials have made in trying to deflect blame and minimize the political fallout from the failed Katrina response…
A “catastrophe within a catastrophe”? Those were Brown’s words to Bush and Chertoff. Brown actually tried to tell them that a failed aid and recovery plan would lead to a disaster on top of the initial disaster from the storm.
Interestingly enough, Chertoff — Brown’s boss at the time — said the following in an interview about a week after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast:
“…if we had an atomic bomb on top of this…and we could pile on catastrophes…whenever you do a planning process, you have to deal with what is reasonably foreseeable. It is true that you can sometimes have a combination of things that are reasonably foreseeable but that combination is unforeseeable.”
Uh, Chertoff…according to these videos, your own FEMA director warned you about the multiple catastrophes on the day the storm hit New Orleans.
Another great line the Bush administration used in the days right after Katrina was that New Orleans appeared to dodge a bullet and that nobody knew about the levee breaches until the following day, Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Of course, just before Brown’s appearance before the Senate committee last month, e-mails were produced that showed federal, state and local government officials were notified of levee breaches as early as 8:30 a.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 29.
And then there is the line Bush himself used — “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees” — during a “Good Morning America” interview on Sept. 1.
Hmm…those videos AP got a hold of apparently tell a different tale.
Bush declared four days after the storm, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees” that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility — and Bush was worried too.
I guess he was worried because he knew there was no way his administration could deal with a recovery and relief effort that huge — something that actually required so much of the humanity and compassion his administration seriously lacks.
So Bush decided to play the “ignorance” card, which comes oh so naturally to him.
As David Letterman would say, “George Bush. Oh…my…God!”
(P.S. Thanks to Katie, I attended last night’s taping of “The Late Show with David Letterman”…woo-hoo!)