No hesitation over the "blame game"

White House to press: Don't blame us for Katrina debacle now, we're (finally) busy trying to save lives!

Published September 7, 2005 1:09AM (EDT)

Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski parses the White House's new catchphrase.

On Tuesday, the White House press corps flooded the briefing room with questions about the Bush administration's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina. Scott McClellan reached for a lifeline known as the "blame game."

McClellan told reporters six times that their questions about how the government failed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina amounted to a "blame game." Twice he used the twisted neologism "blame gaming," as in: "The time for bickering and blame-gaming is later."

McClellan's "blame game" taunt echoed what the first President Bush said on Larry King on Monday night. George H.W. Bush told King: "the media has a fascination with the blame game and instead of looking for what can we do to help now there's a lot of why didn't we do something different?"

Yes, somehow the Bush inner circle has managed to turn questions about the federal response to Katrina into an insinuation that even asking the questions is somehow delaying the response. It's as if demanding to know why so many people were abandoned for days keeps doctors from getting to the sick, and food from getting to the hungry.

"Is the president prepared to say where this White House, where this administration went wrong in its response to Katrina?" asked one reporter at the press briefing Tuesday. To which McClellan methodically answered: "You know ... there are some that are interested in playing the blame game. The president is interested in solving problems and getting help to the people who need it."

And around and around they went until another reporter finally put a finger on it: "That's not a blame game, that's accountability."

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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