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Houston, We Have A Happy Hurricane

Reported by Ellen - September 25, 2005

As surely as a metereologist can predict a hurricane far offshore, so can anyone with a lick of familiarity with FOX News see the GOP spin on Hurricane Rita gathering force and heading our way. For starters, Sean Hannity gushed four times, by my count, on Friday night's (9/23/05) regularly scheduled edition of Hannity & Colmes (there was a two-hour special later that night) about how smoothly the Texas evacuation went. Anytime Sean Hannity repeats something once, you can count on it being repeated a hundred times. Add in a slew of Republican guests plus Greta Van Susteren praising the Texas preparedness and ignoring any troubling questions about bottlenecks or demographics and you have disaster relief on its way for the Bush Administration.

FOX News' own wire service, Associated Press, has reported that:

Hurricane Rita smashed into a region that is wealthier, more mobile and much less densely populated than the one devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Most of Rita's victims are by no means wealthy. But they are less likely to live in poverty, more likely to own a car, and less likely to be a member of a minority group than were Katrina's victims, according to an Associated Press analysis of census data. Experts said the wealth and mobility of people in Rita's path — combined with a new sense of urgency following Katrina — led to a more thorough evacuation.

But none of that information seemed to have been considered, much less reported, on Friday night's Hannity & Colmes. Sean Hannity lavished praise on the Texas evacuation with four different guests (Texas governor Rick Perry, House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, Judge Robert Eckels, Greta Van Susteren), whether they agreed with him or not. Most did but I have to give credit to DeLay for hinting that it could have been better. DeLay said there were "some things that we've learned and when we do it again, we'll probably be better at it."

Did Hannity care what those things were so that the public could demand greater accountability from its government? Apparently not. Sounding chagrined that DeLay had not provided the talking point Hannity had expected, he responded, "Well, I mean, but everybody did get out. I mean, we had enough advance notice, right? So..."

That prompted DeLay to get back with the program. He called the evacuation "the most spectacular thing" and "amazing."

Meanwhile, only Alan Colmes questioned whether the traffic jams were really something to brag about. Colmes asked Governor Perry if he was satisfied with the speed of evacuation, given that people sat in traffic for 10 or 12 hours. Apparently, he was. Rather than answer the question, Perry took a swipe at New Orleans by saying that while he understood people's frustration, the traffic jam "sure beats being plucked off the top of your home by a helicopter."

What if there had been a dirty bomb or a biological attack that required immediate evacuation? Colmes' time was up and he never had the chance to ask a follow-up question.

In the FOX News world, Texas got an A for effort and that was all that mattered. After the swipe at New Orleans, Perry mentioned the "Herculean effort" of the Texas Department of Transportation and the private sector as part of his answer to Colmes.

One of our readers wrote us that he had decided not to evacuate rather than face such traffic delays. How many more people made such a decision? Nobody seemed to give it a thought, including Greta Van Susteren who seems to have no disaster-relief know-how. But she knew Houston was doing great because there were no dead bodies in the water, the way there were in New Orleans. "What always struck me is how well prepared they seemed to be... Now, I know there's a lot of criticism about what happened on the highway yesterday, that there wasn't enough gas and, you know, that's horrible and I thought to myself, it's a terrible inconvenience, and I'm sorry that people have to go through it, but that's better than what I saw when I went to New Orleans when we actually saw bodies floating in water." Newsflash for Greta! New Orleans had a flood, Houston didn't.

The other reason Van Susteren knew Houston was doing a great job is because they were working hard. All in all, I'm actually quite impresed... I was at the Command Center last night and they were very attentive to trying to solve the problems which is very important - is whether our leaders or the leaders in the community - you know they're there to identify the problems and they're there to act and that's what I saw last night so I actually am quite impressed with what's been done so far."

Hannity said, "The ability of the people to get out of there as safely as they did was, frankly, inspiring." Well, I'm glad he found some inspiration because he was long overdue for a new approach toward bailing Bush out of the Katrina disaster.

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