Once again, the main topic of discussion in today’s gaggle was Chimpy’s criminal negligence in the way he handled the worst natural disaster in American history.
But before we get in with that let’s check in on Helen Thomas and her tireless pursuit of accountability for the lies that lead us to war.
Q Former Secretary Powell, Colin Powell says that his presentation to the U.N. — which was obviously full of falsehoods about Iraq’s arsenal — is a blot on his career. I wonder whether the administration takes any responsibility for his statement that led us into war in a big way?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, accountability has been a priority in this administration. [Somewhere, a million kittens just died.] This why the President established the Robb-Silberman Commission, because the intelligence was wrong, and we must make sure we have the best possible intelligence as we move forward to confront the threats of the 21st century. And the Robb-Silberman Commission looked at why the intelligence was wrong, so that we can fix the problems and so that we can make sure we have the best possible intelligence. And that’s why we have a Director of National Intelligence now, that’s why we’ve taken —
Q The White House takes no responsibility?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we took responsibility by acting to fix any problems that were there, and we will do so in this instance, as well.
Okaaaaaay. Whatever, Scottie.
Now, what about Brownie?
Q Has Mike Brown resigned?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?
Q Has Mike Brown resigned?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. [Note: this exchange took place less than an hour before Brown was shuffled back to
Q Has the President asked for his resignation today?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q Does the President have full faith and confidence in Mike Brown?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, what we are continuing to do is to support those in the region who are carrying out the operational activities. We continue to appreciate the work of all those who have been working round-the-clock.
Q But you’re not answering the question, which is, does the President have confidence in Mike Brown?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that’s the way to address the overall question. We appreciate all those who are working round-the-clock, and that’s the way I would answer it.
And the cronyism?
Q Scott, without asking you to comment specifically on Mr. Brown or anyone else currently in office, do the events of the last week suggest that maybe the time has come to consider professionalizing FEMA and making future appointments based on people’s relevant professional credentials, like —
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s just such a broad characterization, Warren. I think you have to look at the overall number of people at FEMA and note that — or are engaged in the work on the ground. I think that’s such a broad characterization.
This should be a relief to the children of New Orleans.
Q Who is Chertoff’s number two, operationally and coordinationally, when you —
MR. McCLELLAN: Operationally? Operationally? Well, Secretary Chertoff is the Secretary of Homeland Security, and Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson is right under him, and then you have — you have the FEMA structure —
Scottie spins a presidential lie by regurgitating another lie.
Q Scott, when the President said a week ago that no one anticipated the breach of the levee, it seems to have been well established that that was just wrong, that there were many federal reports, many stories over the years saying that in a hurricane of this strength that they would be breached. Why was he so willing, and has he asked his experts how he could have been —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you’ve characterized something wrong and interpreted something that he said in the wrong context. I’m glad you brought this question up, because we did actually, I think, respond to one news outlet that had asked about this, and most others had just interpreted it a certain way. And it’s been interpreted wrong.
What the President was referring to is that you had Hurricane Katrina hit, and then it passed New Orleans. And if you’ll remember, all the media reports, or a number of media reports at that time, that Monday — even all the way to the Tuesday papers, were talking to people and saying that New Orleans had dodged a bullet. So I think that’s what the President is referring to, is that people weren’t anticipating those levees, after the hurricane had passed New Orleans, breaching. Many people weren’t. And you can go back and look at the news coverage at that time.
So this is one of those issues in this environment where something has been interpreted and interpreted wrongly. Because all you have to do — and I’ll be glad to provide you some of the coverage from that period and what people were saying at that point. There were literally reports saying that New Orleans had dodged a bullet or that the worst case scenario didn’t happen. Well, it did. And that’s what the President was referring to.
Q You said that headlines showed that we had dodged a bullet right after the hurricane hit. Does the President rely on news headlines —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, absolutely not. I addressed that the other day. Absolutely not. I’m just, I think, putting it into perspective, Jessica. And I’m not saying that it was media; I’m saying talking to people in the region, there were many people in the region that thought that things — that the worst case scenario had not happened. But we know now differently. And you’re referring to a question that was brought up in this briefing. There was a mischaracterization of what the President had said. And if people would have called and asked us, we would have been glad to point that out to them. People did call us — at least one news organization — and we expressed that to them — and there maybe have been others — and I’m just —
Q But you said he discovered it in a news headline, so I’m asking —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’m setting the record straight and I’m putting in perspective what was going on at that time, and the sense that people had initially. But that was a false sense, one that we should not have had, in retrospect — or that many people should not have had, in retrospect. That’s all. And don’t try to take it further than what I said.
Q Did the officials who were briefing him also tell him that they had dodged a bullet?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don’t know — I don’t know of anyone — I mean, I know of everyone still working to respond and to make sure that we were addressing the needs on the ground and assessing the situation. People were working round-the-clock, they were still assessing the situation. There were people that were in New Orleans that — I don’t know whether state, local and federal first responders, Army Corps of Engineer — I don’t think anyone was breathing any sigh of relief at that point. But there were many that had felt that the worst case scenario wasn’t — then it happened, when it initially was passing. But we now know differently. But the first responders at the state, federal, local level, they were all staying on top of things as best they could under the situations, given that this was a massive catastrophe, one like we’ve never seen before, and learned later that we had some problems with the levees, that they had breached. And we know what has happened since that time.
Oh, my. That was not one of Scottie’s best performances. Claiming the president said no one expected the levees to break because some non-existent newspaper reported that New Orleans had “Dodged a Bullet”, then having to backtrack and claim that the president did not get his information on the catastrophe from a newspaper.
I expect Scottie to think his lies through before he blurts them out.