Stunning Hour of Bobblehead Television
Tim Russert, the dean of Beltway conventional wisdom, lit into Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff like I've never seen before this morning. When your first question is "Are you contemplating resignation," you don't really have anywhere else to go. Chertoff spun and spun, but to no avail. Russert wouldn't have any of it. He assailed Bush and DHS for everything we've seen the reality-based community saying for days (the DHS statement on the website that they have primary repsonsibility, the Times-Picayune series of articles, etc). He also allowed Chertoff to hang himself, when he claimed that "When we looked at the papers Tuesday morning, they said "New Orleans dodged a bullet." By Monday night the levees were breaking. He's basing the government's pathetically slow response on the fact that they read hours-old newspapers for breaking coverage? What is this, 1796?
Then he gives voice to Aaron Broussard, the President of Jefferson Parish, whose heart-wrenching story brought me to tears. Think Progress has a transcript:
RUSSERT: You just heard the director of homeland security’s explanation of what has happened this last week. What is your reaction?
BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. … Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chainsawed off and we’ve got to start with some new leadership. It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now...
Three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA, we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. When we got there with our trucks, FEMA says don’t give you the fuel. Yesterday — yesterday — FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards and said no one is getting near these lines…
I want to give you one last story and I’ll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” and he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.” Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night! [Sobbing] Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The Secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For god’s sakes, just shut up and send us somebody.
He broke down crying. Seek out this video, it's powerful.
Mississippi Gov. and former RNC Chair Haley Barbour (who I swear looked like he bronzed before the show) then came on, as a counterpoint(?), and repeated the out-of-touch Administration spin verbatim, looking like an empty suit. Many have intimated that Mississippi, with its Republican power structure, fared better than Louisiana because of politics. I don't buy that. Mississippi's in just as bad shape. It's just that 1) they didn't have a flood of the magnitude of NOLA, 2) the population centers hit were smaller, and 3) their Republican power structure has adeptly covered up for the failure.
Then, in the Meet the Press roundtable, Russert has on two guys who wrote articles and books predicting this failure. Former NOLA Mayor Marc Morial explained that the request for Coastal Wetlands Protection has foundered in the Senate for 3 years, and pointed out the absurdity of Hastert's "bulldoze" remarks.
Tim spent about a minute and a half on Chief Justice William Rehnquist's death, at the top, and seemed like he wanted to get it over with. By contrast, Cokie and Will were chuckling about the Court on Stephanopolous, which made me sick. (Although there was a great bit on George's show where he went up in a chopper with Mary Landrieu, and she showed the one lonely crane trying futilely to fix the levee breach. Incidentally, there were more cranes there on Friday, when the President flew over the area for a staged photo op.)
Russert was a champion today. He even ended the show with a request for help. I cried twice during it. That was the best hour of Sunday bobbleheads I've ever seen.