BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006



Simple posts this week - lots of work - not much time to blog.

However --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go to Jim. Go ahead.

Q: I just wanted to ask in advance of the trip to New Orleans, something that broke last week that I don't think in the middle of the trip everybody sort of got their arms around -- I'm hoping you can clarify for me.
That Associated Press report last week, it seemed to suggest that on the Thursday after Katrina, the President gave this interview on "Good Morning America" where he said there was no way to anticipate the severity of the storms or the levees breaking.

And then from the briefing on Sunday, it appears as though Max Mayfield and others are telling him that's exactly what could happen.

Is there a contradiction here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the transcript actually talks about levees being over-topped.

But we've already made clear what the President was referring to in that interview, and unfortunately some have taken it out of context and continue to take it out of context.

The President made it very clear what he was referring to. If you will recall on August 29th when the hurricane hit and then it passed the New Orleans area, there were a number of reports -- including media reports -- saying that New Orleans had dodged the bullet, and there was some sense that the worst-case scenario did not happen.

Remember, there were really two storms that hit, the initial hurricane and then the flooding that came after it. What we know now is that the worst-case scenario really did hit New Orleans, that the levees were breached. What the President was referring to was the sense that after the storm had initially passed, that there was a sense that that worst-case scenario had not happened.

We learned the next day, all of us learned that, in fact, the levees had been breached and that there was a systemic failure in the levees. That was what was certain that next morning. And that's what the President was referring to, and some have taken it out of context to suggest to you it was referring to any predictions before the hurricane hit.
You understand what the President was referring to, yes?
MR. McCLELLAN: We knew that this was a dangerous storm.

That's why the President was actively engaged in making sure that we were taking steps to prepare for it. That's why he issued emergency declarations ahead of the storm, so that supplies could be pre-positioned and emergency teams could be -- response teams could be pre-positioned in the region and act once that storm had passed. That's why the President called Governor Blanco and urged her to do a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. That's why the President, on August 28th, went to the airwaves and publicly urged people in the Gulf Coast region to take this storm seriously, to get out of the way, to listen to the state and local authorities and follow their advice. He talked about how this is a dangerous and potentially devastating storm.

Q: When he says on Thursday, "no one could have anticipated," he's talking about this period of time after the storm had hit?

MR. McCLELLAN: After the hurricane had passed. That's right.

And there was -- remember, there were a number of media reports -- I can go back and cite those for you -- that evening, Monday evening, and even some later, saying that New Orleans had "dodged a bullet," that the worst-case scenario did not happen.
So what?! The media gets it wrong 90% of the time!

It's your job to get it right.

MR. McCLELLAN: Now, we knew that there was flooding going on, on that Monday, and that's why our priority was focused on saving lives. And our Coast Guard teams and others did a tremendous job in saving lives. The Coast Guard saved some 33,000 lives, and they were doing heroic work.

But let me step back and remind people what the President has said. Despite all the efforts that went on, there was a breakdown at all levels of government.

The President was not satisfied with the response at the federal level. That's why he undertook, directed his Homeland Security Advisor to do a comprehensive lessons learned review of the response efforts. And that review covered some 17 specific areas and provided some 125 recommendations for us to move forward. A number of them we're already acting on. Some of them are longer-term, some of them are ones that we can do before the next hurricane season.

And so the President is focused on making sure that we are applying those lessons learned to future natural disasters, or even terrorist attacks. There is much we can learn from this and our obligation to the American people is to do a better job next time, and that's what we are committed to doing.

Feel safer?

More later - hopefully.


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