Daily Kos: NPR's Robert Siegel nails Michael Chertoff

NPR's Robert Siegel nails Michael Chertoff
by Dr Tom More [Subscribe]
Thu Sep 1st, 2005 at 23:11:17 CDT

In another sign that the media is finally waking up from their five-year sleep, NPR's Robert Siegel worked over Michael Chertoff this afternoon on "All Things Considered."

Chertoff begins by saying that there has been a "more than adequate response" from the federal government to the disaster, and then Siegel says this:

* Dr Tom More's diary :: ::

Siegel: Let me ask you about images that many Americans are seeing today, and hearing about. They are from the Convention Center in New Orleans, a CNN reporter has described thousands of people, many of them he says, (unintelligible), mothers with babies, in the streets, no food, corpses and human waste, our reporter, John (unintelligible--I think he says "Brennan") has seen the same thing. How many days before your operation finds these people, brings them at least, food, water, medical supplies, if not gets them out of there?

Chertoff: Well, first of all let me say that there have been deliveries of food, water, and medical supplies to the Superdome, and that's happened almost from the very beginning . . .

Siegel: But this is the Convention Center, these are people who were not allowed inside the Superdome.

Chertoff: (unintelligible--sounds like : but, peop-, uh, you know, we, there, the) we have brought this to the Superdome, there are stations in which we have put food, water, and medical supplies. The limiting factor here has not been that we don't have enough supplies. (Chertoff now begins to talk to Siegel like he's a very dimwitted child) The fact is that we really had a double catastrophe. We not only had a hurricane, we had a second catastrophe, which was a flood. That flood made part of the city very difficult to get to . . .

Siegel: Um-hum . . .

Chertoff: If you can't get through the city you can't deliver supplies. so we have in fact, using road gaps, been getting food and water to distribution centers and places where people can get them.

Siegel: But if those people who haven't gotten them, if they ask our reporter 'when am I going to see those supplies, when are they going to get to me?' what's the answer? How many days?


Chertoff: I, I, I, I would, I expect that unless people are trapped in isolated places that we can't get to, I would expect everyone's going to have access to food and water and medical care. The key is to get people to staging areas. There are some people who are stranded, who are not (unintelligible). They are not people that we're necessarily going to rescue immediately, but we're going to try to get them food and water so they can sustain themselves until we can get to them.

Siegel: We hear, we are hearing from our reporter, (unintelligible), thousands of people at the Convention Center in New Orleans with no food.

Chertoff: I, as I . . .

Siegel: Zero.


Siegel: But sorry Mr. Secretary, when you say we shouldn't listen to rumors, these are things coming from reporters who have not only covered many, many other hurricanes, they've covered wars and refugee camps. These aren't rumors. They're seeing thousands of people there.

Chertoff: Wuh, well, I, I, well, I would be, as I say, I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the Convention Center who don't have food and water. I can tell you that, I know specifically the Superdome, which was the designated staging area for a large number of evacuees does have food and water, and that we have teams putting out food and water at other designated evacuation areas. So, this is uh, and we've got plenty of food and water if we can get it out to people. And that is the effort we're undertaking.

Siegel: I have to ask you, there is said to have been a report in i think 2001 which listed a catastrophic hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the three worst potential disasters this country could face. As someone who inherited FEMA and who came to this with 9-11 obviously being the preoccupation that faced us all, have you had a plan in some office near yours that says 'Huge hurricane hits New Orleans, here's what we do in case of that catastrophe?'

Chertoff: FEMA has plans for all foreseeable catastrophes. They have plans for this kind of catastrophe, and they exercised and worked on these plans. Recognizing that this was a possibility over the weekend, we pre-positioned an unprecedented amount of food and water and ice. This mandatory evacuation was ordered and begun, but at the end of the day, as with any titanic struggle with nature, a plan only gets you so far in the face of struggling with the reality of miles of city that are underwater.

Siegel: And our reporter said 2,000 people at the Convention Center without any food.

Chertoff: I can't argue with what your reporter tells you. I can only tell you that we are getting water, and, and food and other supplies to people, where we have them staged, where we can find them, and where we can get it to them. And if you're suggesting that somehow the National Guard missed a group of people, I will certainly call up and make sure they don't miss them. But I'm not in a position to argue with you about what your reporter said.

Chertoff's not in a position to argue with him because it's quite obvious from the audio that this was the first Chertoff had heard of the Convention Center. So he launches back into the talking points about staging areas and the standard Bush administration gambit of blaming someone else ("if the National Guard missed a group of people").

Now, unlike Michael Chertoff, I'm no expert in disaster relief, but here's the thing: If you've got 2,000 people (some reports put the numbers much higher) in one place, that's a fucking staging area, whether you like it or not. When buses pass by the Convention Center on their way to the Superdome, then you can get "through the ground" to get these people food and water. Real disasters, strangely enough, don't ever seem to work like staged disasters. You have to improvise, adapt, and overcome, as the US Marines would tell you if they weren't all in Iraq.

And I'm not an expert in management, either, but I've been an employee long enough to know that there's nothing worse than a boss who passes the buck down the ladder. Not only does that make you an asshole, it makes you a weak asshole.

I could probably feel a little more comfortable calling myself an expert in communications, and I got to tell you, I think the press has had enough. It's not just Siegel and Anderson Cooper and Joe Scarborough. It's everyone. I want to quietly and diffidently suggest that they're onto the White House, now. Their bosses can't keep them on a leash anymore and they're not afraid of them now. It could well be that Bush's whole act is fucked. And talking to reporters like they're children ain't gonna play anymore. I hope I'm right, because it's about damned time.

Not that it really matters, I guess, at this point. We're stuck with these swine for three more years, and I suspect there's probably a Presidential Medal of Freedom in Michael Chertoff's future.

As for the thousands of people in the Convention Center, people who went there because that's where they'd been told to go, law-abiding people who need help, people who Homeland Security and National Guard buses have been driving past all day--as for them, there's just another dark and hungry night.

Daily Kos: NPR's Robert Siegel nails Michael Chertoff


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