Tuesday, September 6, 2005

A Hack of a Job

Fred Grimm of the Miami Herald:

The White House and its fearsome communications apparatus must now realize that fooling around for five days before sending military help and disaster aid into the New Orleans chaos allowed all those damn reporters to get there ahead of them. Made it tough for FEMA head Michael Brown to feign ignorance about hideous, desperate and violent conditions inside the city after reporters from The Miami Herald, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC, NBC and even Fox filed detailed, gut-wrenching, terrifying reports from inside the flooded city.

From the very places where Brown and his cronies should have been. But weren’t.

Worse, these weren’t docile Cool Whip journalists from the White House Press Corp., worried about losing “access” if they irritate the administration. But actual street reporters, some of them war reporters, wading through fetid floodwater, witnessing deaths, dodging bullets, describing misery. They gathered organic truth in New Orleans. Not the processed Washington version of truth, injected with more additives than a TV dinner.

Brown, the very definition of a political hack (who before joining FEMA was fired from his job with the International Arabian Horse Association) will be forever remembered for his news conferences last week, offering flat-toned assurances in stark, mendacious contrast to split-screen TV images of harrowing disorder. He gave federal negligence a human face.


The president’s minions must realize too late now that regardless of whether they gave a damn about people trapped in New Orleans, they should have moved in quickly to seal off the convention center, the Superdome and the I-10 underpass from reporters.

Instead, the media revelations inspired a flood of criticism.

The White House’s usual response would be a furious counterattack, raining scorn, defamation and recrimination on its perceived enemies.

But, a week after the storm, the most relentless critics are the dead, still out there on the flooded streets of New Orleans, floating face down.