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Gibson accuses KS Governor Sebelius of playing politics in tornado aftermath

Reported by Chrish - May 8, 2007 -

The devastation in Greensburg Kansas caused by an F5 tornado Saturday was the top story on The Big Story today 5/7/07. Republican Senator (and presidential hopeful) Sam Brownback led the story with assurances that Kansas will get the resources it needs, then three times host John Gibson tried to accuse the Democratic Governor of politicizing the situation with her lament that a lot of the Kansas National Guard's equipment is in Iraq.

Gibson asserted that Sebelius "blamed Iraq for the slow state response to the disaster," and ascribed that complaint to politics. Karen Watson of Kansas Emergency Management (KEM) defended Sebelius and acknowledged that there are plenty of personnel, but a lot of the useful equipment - trucks, bulldozers - are in Iraq.

Gibson pursed his line of questioning, i.e., isn't Sebelius injecting domestic politics into this when she says the National Guard response has been slow, obviously to get to his prepared graphic:

ssBSSebeliusTornado%20KNGpolitics050707.jpg

Watson clearly reiterated that Sebelius is referring to the equipment, not troops. There is large equipment in Iraq that would be helpful in clearing the massive amounts of debris, and KEM would like to see that next part of the process speeded up.

What Gibson failed to report is that last year, a bipartisan group of Governors (who are effectively commanders-in-chief of their respective National Guards) complained that "Bush administration policies were stripping the National Guard of equipment and personnel needed to respond to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, forest fires and other emergencies."

In fact, another Republican presidential hopeful,Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, said: "The National Guard plays an incredibly valuable role in the states. What we are concerned about, as governors, is that when our troops are deployed for long periods of time, and their equipment goes with them but does not come back, the troops are very strained, and they no longer have the equipment they were trained to use."

And CNN.com reports

"National Guardsmen themselves acknowledge the problem: "The National Guard has said for years that it is short of equipment at home because of deployments to Iraq.

"We weren't fully equipped with all the resources we need before the war started," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting of the Kansas National Guard, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "further depleted us."

Lt. Col. Eric Peck of the Kansas National Guard said in addition to being short transportation equipment, they also are short of front-end loaders and other heavy vehicles that can move debris.

He said the Guard troops are providing security, generators and water. They're also moving debris, but not as fast as they could if they had a full complement of equipment."

So just WHO is injecting politics into the story??