As we were writing this morning about the Bush administration’s attempt to blame the media for its slow response to Katrina, George W. Bush was in New Orleans, where he was . . . blaming the media for the administration’s slow response to Katrina.
The president was asked whether he had been misinformed by his people on the ground when he said on Sept. 1 — falsely, as it turns out — that he didn’t think “anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” He didn’t answer that question, exactly. Instead, he segued, in a mostly non sequitur kind of way, into the debunked Republican talking point about how media reports had lulled the government into a false sense of relief about Katrina.
“When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet,” Bush said. “When that storm came through at first, people said, ‘Whew.’ There was a sense of relaxation, and that’s what I was referring to. And I, myself, thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people, probably over the airways, say, the bullet has been dodged. And that was what I was referring to.”
Bush returned to the “dodged the bullet” theme a minute later as he responded to a reporter who asked: “Mr. President, where were you when you realized the severity of the storm?” The right answer might have been (a) on vacation in Crawford, (b) selling my Social Security plan and passing out birthday cake in Arizona, (c) selling the war in Iraq and fooling around with a guitar in California, or (d) spending one more night in Crawford before returning to Washington on Aug. 31. Instead, Bush said that he knew on Sunday, Aug. 28, that “a big storm was coming,” but that those media reports lulled him into a false sense of relief. “We anticipated a serious storm coming,” Bush said. “But as the man’s question said, basically implied, ‘Wasn’t there a moment where everybody said, “Well, gosh, we dodged the bullet,”‘ and yet the bullet hadn’t been dodged.”