Republican Congressional leaders on Wednesday announced a joint House-Senate inquiry into failures surrounding the response to Hurricane Katrina as the Bush administration requested $51.8 billion in new relief money in the face of intensifying Democratic criticism of its handling of the disaster.
"Americans deserve answers," said Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, who announced the panel with the House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, adding that a report from a select group of senior lawmakers would be due by Feb. 15. "We must do all we can to learn from this tragedy, improve the system and protect all of our citizens," he said.
The decision by House and Senate Republican leaders to press forward with a rare bicameral investigation reflected an intense push to quell the furor surrounding the hurricane relief effort and respond to worries by members of their own party that majority Republicans were suffering politically.
Senior House Republican officials said that, behind the scenes, some lawmakers were pressing the Bush administration to dismiss Michael D. Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The above is from Carl Hulse's "Bipartisan Inquiry Proposed as Bush Seeks $51.8 Billion More for Relief" in this morning's New York Times. For those wondering, the first Democrat quoted is Robert Menendez -- in paragraph seven. The next? Harry Reid in paragraph sixteen. At least the headline's "bipartisan." (Check my math, always.)
Now let's go to the BuzzFlash editorial that we mentioned last night, "You Can't Pray a Lie, Except if You are George W. Bush:"
Yet, the news media, by and large, has covered the Bush brazen lies as though they were a test of Rove's skills to get away with them. The media, we thought, was supposed to try and expose lies, not laud the criminal talents of Machiavellian advisors to divert press attention away from easily disproved attempts to deceive the American people on matters of life and death.
The fact is that despite the perhaps temporary media criticisms of the unforgivable Bush neglect of the disaster in New Orleans, the press is still analyzing whether or not Rove (who the press should have hounded out of office for being a traitor in TreasonGate months ago) can save Bush and his minions from their stupefying deliberate betrayal of the truth.
In fact, the status quo media such as the New York Times and the Washington Post continue to be eager and willing transmitters of the Rovian spin and smear machine. For instance, the Post, through the anonymous sources that outed Valerie Plame, "revealed" to readers that the Governor of Louisiana never asked Bush to declare a state of emergency. This was part of the Rove effort, sanctioned and condoned by Bush, to blame local officials for the disastrous and inexplicable federal delay in responding to Hurricane Katrina.
The only problem is that it wasn't true. A look on the FEMA website would have been all that was necessary to discover that LA Governor Blanco had dealt with the issue of declaring Louisiana in a state of emergency before Hurricane Katrina even hit land. But the Post's political reporters -- and the Times' -- like to do stories the easy way, as stenographers. The Post, due to outrage about the lie that caromed around the Internet, was forced to issue a retraction. But the real question is after five years of the same "lie, spin, smear and PR stunt" strategy of covering up a steady stream of Bush disasters, why are the Post and Times still breathlessly reporting lies from anonymous sources at the White House that can be easily disproved?
Perhaps the Post and Times are afraid somebody might accuse them of practicing journalism instead of being megaphones for slander.
Someone might accuse them of practicing journalism? To steal from Eileen Heckart in Butteflies Are Free, "I'd like to see them try!"
Elaine had a good point yesterday about the attacks, from authorities, on the press (which have now gotten physical domestically -- as noted on yesterday's Democracy Now! -- "New Orleans Police Accused of Beating/Detaining Reporters"). The press has only themselves to blame. They licked the boots of this administration. When they got threatened, they licked some more, when they were urinated on, they licked even faster. All that hiding in the Green Zone has come home to roost. Maybe the alleged pre-approval of Dexter Filkins stories (military approval) wasn't such a smart thing? (If it happened.)
If you rolled over there, then the reporters under physical attack in New Orleans are suffering because you refused to stand up. "Hey, we get away with it in Iraq! Let's do it here!" (Which is exactly why everything we're doing in Iraq should concern Americans if only for their own self-interests -- selfish interests?)
Let's move on. Wally e-mails to note Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Have You No Shame?" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):
As Republicans desperately cry out of one corner of their mouths to stop the blame game, they have been blaming everyone but themselves since this catastrophe. Let's look at their ever-evolving buck-passing strategies.
Blame the Victims: Both FEMA's Michael Brown and Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff, the Mutt and Jeff of this calamity, have blamed careless, destitute New Orleaners for not evacuating. "Those who got out are fine," Chertoff told NBC's Tim Russert. FEMA sought to excuse its delays in entering the city by blaming the looters.
Blame the Locals: In a stroke of political luck, both the New Orleans mayor and Louisiana's Governor are Democrats. As the New York Times reported, Karl Rove's PR strategy is to shift the blame to the state and city officials. All Sunday, White House officials and Fox News played this card. Expect more of this line of attack.
From yesterday, we'll note this:
NEW YORK -- WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception, a controversial documentary of American media's coverage of the war in Iraq, will make its exclusive television premiere on Independent Film Channel (IFC) on Sunday, Sept. 11 @ 10p Eastern. The IFC premiere is the result of an agreement announced today between the network and Cinema Libre Studio for the exclusive television rights to the film, which was produced and directed by long-time media critic Danny Schechter.
"Freedom of expression is at the heart of the American experience. A free and curious press is supposed to be the personification of that. This film takes on important questions about the American media that few, if any, other networks seem willing to address," said Evan Shapiro, executive vice president/general manager of IFC. "We are presenting it as part of IFC's mission to provide filmmakers with a voice and as reinforcement of our refusal to perpetuate the very forms of censorship depicted in this film."
Shapiro added, "We are, of course, sensitive to the emotions surrounding 9/11 and join with all Americans in sharing remembrances of that tragic day. But we believe that Sept. 11 is an appropriate day to air this film since the Administration has continually made it a point to link the war in Iraq with 9/11 and terrorism. At the same time, we believe that this is an important day to celebrate the freedoms that we in America enjoy, including that of freedom of speech and thought."
Schechter's WMD airs '10 PM ET/PT." This Sunday.
Shirley (who knows this site far better than I do) points out there's another reason to watch WMD, the New York Times attempted to "Nothing to see here, move along" the film: "Danny Schechter: Media Dissector (and Ned Martel: Disinformation Guru/Prat)." Remember, if you don't watch, the terrorists . . . er, corporate media has won.
Rod e-mails the heads up to today's topics for Democracy Now!:
We look at the politicization of disaster relief and the response by the Bush administration and FEMA to past hurricanes.
We examine the incompetence and inexperience of FEMA chief Michael Brown and his top deputies.
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.