Tuesday, September 06, 2005

White House to America: You're On Your Own

White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked today whether Americans should be confident that the federal government is prepared to respond tomorrow -- not after some time the administration says it's okay to play the alleged "blame game," which the president used to call "accountability" when he was running for office -- to a massive terrorist attack on America, in light of the lethally bungled response to Katrina. Here are the exact words, according to the White House itself, that the president's spokesman used to assure Americans of their safety:

Q I'm asking a direct question. Is he confident --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to remain focused on the people.

Q -- that he can secure the American people in the event of a major terrorist attack?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are securing the American people by staying on the offensive abroad and working to spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
That's it. You're safer because of a war on the other side of the world. Every single terrorist who might want to kill you has decided to pack their bags for sunny, I mean Sunni, Iraq, instead. And waging that war is apparently the ONLY thing this administration feels obliged to do to secure our safety.

And as for the administration's vaunted managerial-style efficiency, check out the old-time-ineffectual-Democrats style of bureaucratese McClellan rolls out when he's asked nothing more complicated than "who's in charge:"

Q Can you also say -- who's in charge -- without looking backward, looking forward, who is in charge of the effort from here on out? Who is the one person responsible for restoring --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of operational activities, the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of that.

Q But what person? What person is in charge?

MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Chertoff is in charge of the operational activities. He chairs the interagency task force under the -- and the National Response Plan. And then the FEMA head is underneath the Secretary, helping with the operational activities on the ground. And in terms of the -- this is a coordinated federal, state and local effort that is ongoing.

In terms of security issues, the law enforcement matters are something that the state is overseeing in places like Louisiana and Mississippi. The National Guard are dispatched by the military, but they're under the authority of the state adjutant generals who are under the authorities of the government.

Q But is there no one who's running the entire refugee -- sorry, the displaced people, or whatever they are now, there's no one person in charge of the entire operation now? There's no one person --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, the operational activities, like I said, the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of that from the federal government's standpoint, working with state and local authorities.
Why is this all unspooling like this? See my earlier post on "New Orleans: An Ownership Society."

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