9/22/2005

White House Briefing - 9/22/05 - After Katrina, Bush prepares for Rita

Love Dan Froomkin's title -- law

Fool Me Once
By Dan Froomkin - washingtonpost.com

With another monster hurricane bearing down on the Gulf Coast, the White House is focused on not making the same mistakes again, either procedurally or politically.

"White House officials were already laying the groundwork for Bush to visit or get close to the disaster zone soon after Rita passes, leaving his schedule open for Saturday and Sunday...

"Politically, the biggest mistake Bush made was refusing to acknowledge the sluggish pace of relief. He seemed out of step with the crisis, a perception that his public relations team will try to avoid if Rita hits hard. . . .

..the preparations at the federal level, [are] a far cry from the last time around: "The Department of Defense, taking lessons from Katrina, intends to send surveillance aircraft soon after Rita strikes land to 'determine the magnitude of the relief required and, secondly, where it would be required,' said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense. 'We want to ensure as a matter of policy we have better eyes on target.'

"Already, about 5,000 Texas National Guard troops have been mobilized and another 1,300 who had been assisting in New Orleans are returning from Louisiana. The Pentagon is drawing up plans to assist local law enforcement 'in the event that the first responders become the first victims,' as happened in Katrina, he said. . . .

" 'The most important thing that we're doing is work with the Department of Defense to use their assets up front before the storm instead of waiting until after the storm lands,' said acting FEMA Director R. David Paulison."

Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey write on Newsweek.com: "Bush is prepositioning himself in the Texas area on Saturday, after traveling first to Birmingham, Ala., on Friday. The excuse is a two-day 'thank you' tour of states that have taken in large numbers of Katrina evacuees. But it could easily turn into a Rita disaster tour, if the worst projections come true.

"The critical question remains where he'll spend Saturday night. Given his druthers, Bush would much prefer to spend the night at his ranch in Crawford. The downside: it reminds the world how he spent so long on vacation before Katrina struck. The upside: he'll be close to Houston after Rita passes through. One thing seems sure: as Cindy Sheehan and antiwar protestors take to the streets in Washington this weekend, Bush won't be at the White House."

Word of the Day: Focus

Press Secretary Scott McClellan was repeatedly asked yesterday how the White House preparations for Rita differ from those for Katrina.

And McClellan's word of the day was: "Focus."...


The Sept. 11 Angle

David E. Sanger , writing in the New York Times, calls attention to Bush's somewhat perplexing conflation yesterday of Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Though whether this was part of an orchestrated White House strategy, or just an unfortunate ad lib remains to be seen.

White House Briefing  News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration

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