Here's the impeachment-worthy headline from the Associated Press this morning:
Bush Told U.S. Needs Post-Disaster PlanNow, it would be one thing if, five years after vowing to defend this nation, and four years after the attacks of September 11th and one month after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, military officials told the president that he should be prepared to deal with disasters after they happen and the president replied, "No shit, it's taken care of."
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
Military officials told President Bush on Sunday that the U.S. needs a national plan to coordinate search and rescue efforts following natural disasters or terrorist attacks...
But that's not what happened.
Here's what the military told him:
Bush got an update about the federal hurricane response from military leaders at Randolph Air Force Base. He heard from Lt. Gen. Robert Clark, joint military task force commander for Hurricane Rita, and Maj. Gen. John White, a task force member, who noted confusion in search and rescue operations after Hurricane Katrina.The crucial part of White's quotation is this: "'ll." As in, "will." As in, "don't yet." As in, "there is no national plan to give responders to a major disaster (natural or otherwise) a quick jump-start and an opportunity to save more people." As in, "due to the U.S. government's planning, Americans will die needlessly."
With Katrina, "we knew the coordination piece was a problem," White said. "With Rita, we had the benefit of time. We may not have that time in an earthquake scenario or similar incident."
"With a national plan, we'll have a quick jump-start and an opportunity to save more people," White said.
So, what did President Bush say in response? Did he angrily deny the allegations? Did he show us the elaborate document that lays out exactly the well-thought-out plans he and his crack team have developed over the past four years? No. Without coercion, he confessed:
Bush said he has been interested in whether the Defense Department should take the lead in disasters "of a certain size."Again, "'ll" is the important part. Along with "going to be." Four years after September 11th, a national disaster-response plan could only be the topic of a future-tense discussion in a criminally negligent administration.
"It's clearly the case in a terrorist attack," Bush said. "It's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about." ...
Bush thanked White for his recommendations.
"This is precisely the kind of information I'll take back to Washington to help all of us understand how to do a better job," the president said.
Constrained by the prevailing notions of "objectivity," A.P. writer Deb Riechmann nevertheless figures out a way to remind people of this point, by tossing in an unnecessary anecdote for the final paragraph:
On Saturday, [Bush] made a stop in Austin, Texas, and at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, where he autographed a photo of himself gripping a bullhorn at ground zero three days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.UPDATE: The White House has posted a transcript of President Bush's remarks from this morning. Here they are, in full (or, at least, the portion they've chosen to make public), with my emphasis added to remind folks that this president is someone who got re-elected on the premise that he already was the best man to make us safe:
7:35 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Part of the reason I've come down here, and part of the reason I went to NORTHCOM, was to better understand how the federal government can plan and surge equipment, to mitigate natural disasters. And I appreciate very much, General, your briefing, because it's precisely the kind of information that I'll take back to Washington to help all of us understand how we can do a better job in coordinating federal, state and local response.
The other question, of course, I asked, was, is there a circumstance in which the Department of Defense becomes the lead agency. Clearly, in the case of a terrorist attack, that would be the case, but is there a natural disaster which -- of a certain size that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort. That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about.
END 7:36 A.M. CDT