Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Damn lengthy gaggle today, in which Little Scottie confuses his talking points and invents a new term: blame-gaming.

Q Scott, the reality at hand right now is that the President said that we still live in an unsettled world. This is an administration that has told us since 9/11 that it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” that we could be struck by a terror attack and, obviously, other disasters that are the result of Mother Nature. So at this point, where is the accountability? Is the President prepared to say where this White House, where this administration went wrong in its response to Katrina?

MR. McCLELLAN: You know, David, there are some that are interested in playing the blame game. The President is interested in solving problems and getting help to the people who need it. There will be a time —

Q Wait a minute. Is it a blame game when the President, himself, says that we remain at risk for either another catastrophe of this dimension, that’s not manmade, or a terrorist attack? Isn’t it incumbent upon this administration to immediately have accountability to find out what went wrong, when at any time this could happen again?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is a massive federal response effort that we have underway. We’ve got to stay focused on helping those who are in need right now and help them rebuild their lives and get back up on their feet. It’s a time of many challenges, enormous challenges. We’ve got to stay focused on the task at hand. That is what the President is doing.

Here is where the Iraqi talking points seep into the Katrina defense. Shorter Scottie: We’re fighting the weather abroad so we won’t have to fight it at home.

Now, in terms of addressing threats, we’ve made a lot of progress since the attacks of September 11th. And one of the most important things we’re doing is staying on the offensive abroad. There are important priorities that we have to continue to address and we are working to address those priorities, too. But we have a major disaster that has occurred over a 90,000 square mile [sic] here in the United States. There are people —

Q Right. And there are people who want to know why this government couldn’t respond —

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on. There are people who are suffering, and we’ve got to respond to their needs, and that’s what we’re going to keep our focus.

Q So no one is prepared to say what went wrong?

MR. McCLELLAN: We will look at back at the facts and we will get to the bottom of the facts and determine what went wrong and what went right. But right now —

Why does an officer in the Northern Command hate America?

Q But, Scott, more concretely, an officer of the Northern Command is quoted as saying that as early as the time Hurricane Katrina went through Florida and worked its way up to the Gulf, there was a massive military response ready to go, but that the President did not order it. It could have been ordered on Sunday, on Monday, on Tuesday — the call didn’t come. Why not?

MR. McCLELLAN: Bill, let’s point out a couple of things. There were a lot of assets that were deployed and pre-positioned prior to the hurricane hitting. And you have to look back —

Q These assets were deployed, but the order to use them never came. The Bataan was sitting off behind the hurricane.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know these are all facts that you want to look at and want to determine what went wrong and what went right. I’m not prepared to agree with your assessment just there. There is a much larger picture here that we have to take a look at, and —

Q It’s not mine, it’s an officer in the Northern Command.

MR. McCLELLAN: — in terms of the President, the President issued disaster declarations ahead of time so that we could make sure we’re fully mobilizing resources and pre-positioning them. But this was a hurricane of unprecedented magnitude.

Q Right, but the military can’t go into action without his order.

Uh-oh! Scottie comes perilously close to admitting the president is responsible for something!

Q I just want to follow up on David’s questions on accountability. First, just to get you on the record, where does the buck stop in this administration?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President.

Q All right. So he will be held accountable as the head of the government for the federal response that he’s already acknowledged was inadequate and unacceptable?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President’s most important responsibility is the safety and security of the American people. He talks about that often. That is his most important responsibility. Again, there’s going to be plenty of time to look at the facts and determine what went wrong and what went right and how the coordination was between the state and federal and local authorities. Right now we’ve got to continue doing everything we can in support of the ongoing operational activities on the ground in the region to help people.

Q Well, the President has said that this government can do many things at once: It can fight the war on terror, it can do operations in Iraq, and aid and comfort people in Louisiana. Can it not also find time to begin to hold people accountable? It sounds, Scott, as if the line that you’re giving us — which is, you don’t want to answer questions about accountability because there’s too much busy work going on —

MR. McCLELLAN: Wrong. No, wrong.

Q — is a way of ducking accountability.

What about Brownie?

Q One last question. The person who says that he found out about the Convention Center seeing it on the media — that is to say the FEMA Director — is still in place. Is that satisfactory that somebody would have responded like that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is getting into — we’re somewhat engaged in a blame game. We’ve got to —

Q It’s not a blame game. That’s accountability —

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, we’ve got to —

Q It’s accountability.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.

Q Is “Brownie” still doing a “heck of a job,” according to the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: We’ve got to continue to do everything we can in support of those who are involved in the operational aspects of this response effort. And that’s what we’re going to do. There will be plenty of time —

Q If he fails at it, he’s not going to be good at it going forward. That’s what Bob is saying.

Let the blame-gaming begin!

Q Well, let’s talk about it. Are you saying the President is — are you saying that the President is confident that his administration is prepared to adequately, confidently secure the American people in the event of a terrorist attack of a level that we have not seen? And based on what does he have that confidence?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and that’s what he made clear earlier today, that obviously we want to look and learn lessons from a major catastrophe of this nature.

Q Yes, but you’re telling us today there will be time for that somewhere down the road. Well, what if it happens tomorrow?

MR. McCLELLAN: We can engage in this blame-gaming going on and I think that’s what you’re getting —

Q No, no. That’s a talking point, Scott, and I think most people who are watching this —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that’s a fact. I mean, some are wanting to engage in that, and we’re going to remain focused —

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.

Q That’s a talking point. That’s a talking point.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that’s a fact.

[snip]

MR. McCLELLAN: The time for bickering and blame-gaming is later. The time for helping people in the region is now.

More talking point confusion. Shorter Scottie: If we put a time frame on investigating the administration’s failures the hurricanes will just wait and strike us when the investigation cocludes.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you’re asking me to put a time frame on it, and right now, with all the ongoing needs on the ground, we’ve got to remain focused there.