- Jul 31, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
New video footage suggests otherwise..
In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.
Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."
The footage -- along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press -- show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.
Linked by secure video, Bush expressed a confidence on Aug. 28 that starkly contrasted with the dire warnings his disaster chief and numerous federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm.
A top hurricane expert voiced "grave concerns" about the levees and then-Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown told the president and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren't enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome.
The White House and Homeland Security Department urged the public Wednesday not to read too much into the video footage.
"I hope people don't draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing," presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said, citing a variety of orders and disaster declarations Bush signed before the storm made landfall. "He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times."
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said his department would not release the full set of videotaped briefings, saying most transcripts from the sessions were provided to congressional investigators months ago.
"There's nothing new or insightful on these tapes," Knocke said. "We actively participated in the lessons-learned review and we continue to participate in the Senate's review and are working with them on their recommendation."
Bush declared four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. He later clarified, saying officials believed, wrongly, after the storm passed that the levees had survived. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility even before the storm -- and Bush was worried too.
March 1, 2006 - The vacationing President George W. Bush was “very engaged” in monitoring Hurricane Katrina developments right from the day that the hurricane made landfall, according to Michael Brown, then chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brown’s comments about the president surfaced in a transcript of an Aug. 29, 2005, videoconference call produced by Bush administration officials today after they initially told Congress that no such document existed.
While the newly discovered transcript does provide new evidence of initial presidential engagement in the Katrina crisis and of conflicting information about the state of New Orleans levees on Aug. 29, it also exposes some contradictions in previous administration explanations about the role of the White House and top officials in handling the crisis.
Under questioning by congressional investigators as to why he went home at 10 p.m. on Aug. 29 amid conflicting reports about flooding and levee breaches, Rapuano indicated that the administration did not believe the White House was supposed to be a command center. He says he went home believing that FEMA’s Michael Brown had all the resources he needed and that extensive search-and-rescue efforts were under way in New Orleans. Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said earlier this year: "The White House is not an operational institution. It doesn't run the nitty-gritty in natural disasters, and it doesn't direct bombing sorties in Iraq."
Some congressional investigators say it now seems somewhat ironic that having belatedly found the Aug. 29 conference-call transcript, the administration is now touting it as evidence of deep presidential—and White House—involvement in the crisis. White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Aug. 31 told reporters on Air Force One that the president was still deeply engaged in responding to Katrina. McClellan said Bush participated in a conference call that included Vice President Dick Cheney, Brown of FEMA, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, White House Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend, chief of staff Andy Card, deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, deputy national-security adviser J. D. Crouch, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett and others.