New Orleans Flood
Lies Gone Wild
3 March, 2006 - 21:12 — Bryan Lambert
Memo to the 34 Percenters: YOU ARE DUMB.
Boy, that was fast. Late Wednesday, the media get hold of a tape showing the president being briefed about how serious the New Orleans situation was, and what the likelihood of levee failure and flooding were. To many, this tape seems to put the lie to Bush's infamous Good Morning America statement: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached. And as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded. And now we are having to deal with it and will."
Now, I seem to recall someone pointing out six months ago that this was a ridiculous fucking lie, but now there's videotape. Of the president. Being told. On August 28. This would seem, at first, to be problematic, but in less than twelve hours, right-wing blogs like Powerline leapt to the same exact defense they used when the original statement was shown as ridiculous. You see, it all depends on what the definition of "breach" is.
The president was warned about a shitload of water coming into New Orleans - first OVER the levees, then through them. What actually happened was that the water skipped the over part and just came through. And this means the President didn't technically get caught in a lie by these tapes.
The problem with this analysis, of course, is that it requires the deliberate rejection of external context to such a degree that it makes a sensory deprivation tank look like Mardi Gras. Pre-flood Mardi Gras. The president was not speaking technically. We know this for at least three reasons.
First, the president cannot speak technically. Second, even if he could, the audience of Good Morning America wouldn't have understood him. And third, the kicker, is the whole question of why he had to go on Good Morning America at all.
September 1 was day four of the flooding. The cameras were there, filming scenes of devastation and mobs of teeming, poor human beings trapped in the city waiting for help. The President had spent most of those four days on vacation, on fundraising trips, and being photographed playing the guitar. Politically, the only possible defense was that they were caught by surprise.
They couldn't say anything else and not get in trouble. The only way you can justify the leader of a nation fucking around with a guitar while one of his cities sinks is if he couldn't possibly have known it was going to sink. And THAT is what Bush was trying to convey on Good Morning America. That he was caught by surprise. That they were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the destruction. That they prepared as well as they could, but that events got out of hand in a way nobody could have planned for.
That is the political reality in which "anticipating the breach" matters. Not in the precise details of how the water got into New Orleans. But in the public relations. In one of dozens of attempts to shape reality up front, and then brush away any pesky evidence after the fact. And Powerline and the rest of the Thirty Four Percenters, the people still standing by the President after all this time, the people who buy into it, are dumb.