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Michael Chertoff's Failure Of Imagination

Reported by Ellen - September 1, 2005

Michael Chertoff, Director of Department of Homeland Security, was on Hannity & Colmes tonight defending his response (or lack thereof) to Hurricane Katrina. As has become customary in the Bush Administration, nothing that has gone wrong is its fault nor could have been foreseen. It doesn't bode well for future preparedness.

Alan Colmes started the interview by asking why the riots and looting happened if the level of "pre-staging" Chertoff spoke of at an earlier news conference was right.

Chertoff answered, "This has been a unique challenge among all disasters. It was really a double disaster... Here we had a hurricane and it was followed the next day by a flood and that flood is still underway so that as we send people in, they have the challenge of actually dealing with an ongoing catastrophe... This has added an element of challenge and complexity to the relief effort that I frankly think is unprecedented."

Unprecedented, maybe, but not unexpected. As The Chicago Tribune reported,

Despite continuous warnings that a catastrophic hurricane could hit New Orleans, the Bush administration and Congress in recent years have repeatedly cut funding for hurricane preparation and flood control.

I wish Colmes had confronted Chertoff about that. I have heard Colmes discuss that very issue on his radio show so it's not as if he didn't know. Instead, he asked, "Are we learning anything here. I mean, Heaven forbid... what would happen in this country if we had a terrorist attack... Does that teach us anything about how we might respond in such a situation?"

Chertoff gave another bogus answer. "The catastrophic magnitude of this tragedy rivals anything we could imagine or virtually anything we could imagine from a terrorist."

Comment: I hope not! Isn't he getting paid to imagine all the worst case scenarios? If he could not imagine this tragedy, which the administration had already been warned of, then what CAN he be prepared for? If Chertoff is telling the truth about his cluelessness, then he is woefully ill-suited for his job.

Then Chertoff blamed the victim (coincidentally, the same tack FOX News has taken). "We've learned some lessons. We've learned some things we've done well. We've recognized the challenge in, particularly preserving public order. I have to say I think we're all a little disappointed that a small minority of the city has decided they want to exploit the vulnerability of others."

Comment: And I suspect a large majority are greatly disappointed that the federal government wasn't more prepared to protect that vulnerability.

Chertoff added that for a lot of people "even an hour delay seems like an eternity."

Comment: Sounds like Chertoff is trying to make a three-day delay sound like an hour.

When it was Hannity's turn, he said, "there is some whining, there is some complaining. Is there a little bit of politics going on here or do you feel that you are doing the best you possibly can?"

Hannity opened the door for a predictable answer from Chertoff, that DHS began "moving people in" at the start of the hurricane, more people and resources are on the way, etc. "So as time passes, we're getting a lot of work done."

I have to say that Hannity sounded not so convinced. He asked Chertoff if he was confident that every person who needed help was receiving it.

Chertoff once again explained why nothing was HIS fault. "People have begun in the last day to emerge from places of shelter that we didn't know about." He said not everybody went to designated refuges and that some had congregated in the street and on I-10.

Comment: Did he really think that everybody would be willing and able to go to designated shelters? Even so, how hard did anyone look if his department couldn't find people congregated in the street and on I-10?

"The issue here is really not a lack of resources, it is the difficulty of distributing them."

And the reason you weren't prepared for that ahead of time is...

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