Thursday, March 02, 2006

Via TBogg, I see that legal beagle John Hinderaker has viewed the newly released Katrina video and gives Bush a crafty lawyer's defense over at Power Line:

What ... is the AP's basis for saying that "federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees..."? Here is the only support for that claim in the article:

The National Hurricane Center's Mayfield told the final briefing before Katrina struck that storm models predicted minimal flooding inside New Orleans during the hurricane but he expressed concerns that counterclockwise winds and storm surges afterward could cause the levees at Lake Pontchartrain to be overrun.

"I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not but that is obviously a very, very grave concern," Mayfield told the briefing.

But this has nothing to do with the levees breaching; it has to do with them being overtopped--a much less dangerous threat.

Hinderaker complains that "AP didn't release the documents [transcripts of the video briefings] ... so we could draw our own conclusions." But if he'd gone to an obscure Web site called, he'd have found two partial PDF transcripts of briefings -- they're attached as a sidebar to this article. The transcripts are maddeningly incomplete and not well transcribed, but here's Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center on page 6 of the August 29 transcript:

... Louisiana can talk a little bit more about this than I can, but it looks like the Federal levies around the City of New Orleans will not have been (incomprehensible) any breaches to.

Bush told us afterward, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" -- but obviously Mayfield did anticipate it as at least a possibility, because he's addressing the question of whether it has already happened.

Not to belabor the obvious, but this is the same learning disability we saw with regard to the 9/11 attacks and the rise of the Iraqi insurgency, not to mention the lack of WMDs in Iraq -- the Bushies hear conflicting information and process only the stuff that confirms what they want to hear; they can't (or won't) assimilate bad news. (In the case of WMDs, their absence in Iraq was, for the Bushies, bad news.) No, no one said "The levees are breaching" -- yet it was still an open question. But the preferred answer was "No," so when some reports suggested that that was the correct answer, Bush and Chertoff took their eye off the ball, with disastrous results.


And, of course, the Times story has this:

In the videoconference held at noon on Monday, Aug. 29, Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reported that he had spoken with President Bush twice in the morning and that the president was asking about reports that the levees had been breached.

But asked about the levees by Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana said, "We have not breached the levee at this point in time." She said "that could change" and noted that the floodwaters in some areas in and around New Orleans were 8 to 10 feet deep. Later that night, FEMA notified the White House that the levees had been breached.

Odd that Bush would ask about a breach that nobody could have ever anticipated happening, and that Hagin and Blanco would then discuss such an unforeseeable possibility.

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