The world watched in horror at the incompetence of the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina. How could the White House not know survivors needed help? Why wasn’t the Department of Homeland Security prepared for such a disaster?
The president told the American people not to point the finger at him.
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”
That was the president’s lame excuse for inaction in the days following the Hurricane as he praised his friend and FEMA director for doing “a heck of a job.” But people did know what damage the storm might do. Those people included the White House. The Washington Post reports:
In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.
A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.
The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.
In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.
In the meantime, the White House is being accused tonight of hindering the congressional investigation into what went so wrong during Katrina. Reuters reports:
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the top Democrat on the Senate panel investigating the government's botched response to Hurricane Katrina, on Tuesday accused administration officials of failing to cooperate and trying to run out the clock on the congressional probe.
"The problems begin at the White House, where there has been a near total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation we have a responsibility to do," Lieberman said in a hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
The Connecticut Democrat said the administration has delivered few of the documents requested by the committee and hindered it's ability to obtain information from agencies involved in preparing and responding to the hurricane.
"There's been no assertion of executive privilege; just a refusal to answer," Lieberman said.
"My staff believes that (the Department of Homeland Security) has engaged in a conscious strategy of slow walking our investigation in the hope that we would run out of time to follow the investigation's natural progression to where it leads."
No Democrat in Congress has gone out of his way more that Joe Lieberman to support this president – on issue after issue. You cannot accuse him with playing politics with this case.
But you can make the statement that this president’s dishonesty and incompetence makes him the most ineffective and biggest failure to occupy the White House in more than a generation.
Can you think of any other sitting president who has lost an American city since the British burned Washington?