Saturday, September 10, 2005

Katrina's aftermath and the administration's mistrust of the media

I signed off in July partly out of dismay following the attacks on London. Two months later, here I am, posting about another even more disturbing disaster -- the devastation in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

The interaction between the press and the government during this crisis has been (and I suspect will continue to be) fascinating. But while reading a NYT piece about Bush's slap on the wrist to his crony, FEMA Director Michael Brown, a thought occurred to me that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere (as usual please do correct me if I am wrong.)

What if the federal government's glacial reaction in the days following the disaster was caused, in some small part, by their complete mistrust of the media?

According to the story, Bush had been getting regular reports from Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (as a blackly humorous aside, see New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial cartoonist Steve Kelley's take on TweedleBrown and TweedleChertoff.) Nevertheless he didn't know about the situation in the Superdome until an aide brought him a news report on Thursday.

Let that sink in -- Thursday. Two days after Bush magnanimously cut his vacation short and returned to the Oval Office, he didn't know what the rest of America knew. Why is that? Could it be, as Paula Zahn asked Brown, that he hadn't been watching TV? Or was it that Bush and his administration have such little regard for the news media that they dismissed what they were seeing? I really wish someone would ask him this question.