So here's the primer. In short, firefighters who volunteered to help save and help people, were instead forced to act as human props as Bush walked around pretending to do stuff.
Billmon responds in his usual brilliant way:
I guess this is what Bush was talking about yesterday when he called himself a "problem solver." But one of these days he and the Rovians really ought to take a stab at trying to solve other people's problems.
I'm just surprised they didn't shove some boots and a helmet on Shrub and stick him behind the wheel of a fire engine. Maybe with a big banner on the side: "Lets Roll!"
So what's next? Will they round up some doctors and have them tag along with Shrub while he visits patients at an emergency field hospital? (Ideally, a tidy tent full of young, attractive African American patients -- nothing bloody or threatening.) Surely that can be arranged.
Or how about a town meeting with the engineers plugging the levee breaks? They could explain what they're doing and show Shrub their plans, and he could nod his head and pretend like he understands what they're talking about. That shouldn't take more than a half a day out of their schedule. And what's another half day when most of those people have been trapped in their attics for a week already?
Now, the firefighters who volunteered to help and save people, and have been ignored and neglected by FEMA unless it's to act as human props for Dear Leader. And god forbid they get pissed about it!
On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.
Federal officials are unapologetic.
"I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.
Idiots. But now the GOP is in full protect mode. Not "protect the people" mode, mind you, but "protect Bush at all costs" mode. And part of that "protect" mode means lying to journalists about who's to blame, seeking to muddy the issue and introduce enough uncertainty into the debate that it takes pressure off the guy in charge.
The Washington Post and Newsweek have both run blind quotes from a "senior administration official" claiming that Blanco screwed up by not declaring a state of emergency -- a factual assertion that those reporters could have quickly and easily have verified on the record. David Brock of Media Matters writes a letter to the Washington Post (and Newsweek, I'm sure, isn't far behind):
The use of anonymous sources has come under attack from many quarters in recent weeks. We at Media Matters for America are not among those who contend that anonymous sources should never be used. To the contrary, we fully understand that anonymous sources are often vital to uncovering stories that those with power do not want told.
In this case, however, the Post reporter's reliance on an anonymous source defies reason. The statement made by the anonymous source was an assertion of fact that could have been easily refuted. Blanco's declaration was widely reported at the time it was made, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune reprinted an August 27 letter from Blanco to President Bush in which she noted that she had declared the state of emergency. That the Post allowed itself to be the conduit by which "a senior Bush official" delivered a political attack -- the accuracy of which could have been determined quickly and on the record -- is unconscionable.
It is bad enough that the paper quoted an anonymous "source" spinning, but, in this case, the source was, put simply, lying. The Post's correction is far from adequate. It would seem to us that if your newspaper discovers that an anonymous source blatantly lied to one of your reporters, the implied contract of the source-journalist relationship has been broken, and the source has forfeited his or her right to anonymity. Further, the fact that a "senior Bush official" is lying in an apparent effort to blunt criticism of the Bush administration seems extremely newsworthy -- the sort of information that should be the topic of an article in your newspaper, not merely hinted at in a two-sentence correction.
Reporters might protest that a policy of "outing" dishonest sources would make others less likely to talk in the future. But are your readers' interests best served by the reporter-source relationship as it exists now? If this incident is any indication, the answer seems to be no. The "senior Bush official" will suffer no consequences and will be free to spin, smear, and lie again in the pages of the Post or other news outlets -- all without revealing his or her identity.
I can't believe the DC media has so fallen, is so utterly corrupt and compromised, that this is even a point of debate.