Water, Logged

Document by document, inquiry skewers Bush's Katrina cover-up

Little wonder that, as the press reported widely on Friday, the White House put presidential adviser and campaign mastermind Karl Rove on damage control.

On Saturday morning, Bush addressed the situation from the Rose Garden and posed for a photo op with a Coast Guard helicopter and crew standing in the background. Next, Bush backed up his main man. “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” the president said.

He flew into New Orleans later that day for more photo ops, more covering up. “Touring this critical site yesterday with the president, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe,” Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu would say on Sunday. “Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment.”

Firefighters were pulled into action. “A team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana,” reported The Salt Lake Tribune. “The crew’s first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated area.”

The president again endorsed the federal effort: “I am satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with all the results.”

Who could be at fault? The White House tried to shift attention by blaming Democratic governor Blanco, claiming she never declared the state of emergency necessary to bring in federal relief. This turned out to be untrue and The Washington Post, for one, issued a correction.

Though perhaps trying to sound compassionate, the president himself quite clearly added his voice to those blaming the whole thing on local officials. “[T]he magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need,” he said.

Now with the congressional inquiry into the government’s response, they might at last find out why.


Additional reporting: Colin Gustafson, Michael Roston

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