Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What does the War on Terror have to do with Katrina?

Obfuscating the truth.

White House political antennae appear to be very sensitive to at least one phenomenon -- impending public relations disasters. The bad news in this case was a New York Times report that while the President's staff was warned as early as Monday evening, Aug. 29, 2005, that flood waters had breached levees in New Orleans, White House officials professed ignorance of that fact well into the next day, even though time was of the essence in dealing with the disaster.

The truth was bound to come out, but when it did last week the West Wing staff had a contingency plan: a speech by President Bush revealing details of a supposedly foiled plot by al-Qaeda to crash an airplane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the tallest building on the West Coast. Mr. Bush said the terrorists were thwarted by "the combined efforts of several countries to break up this plot."

As propagandists, the folks in the White House are experts. Whenever they sense bad news, they invoke 9/11 and the terrorist threat, even though the basic facts of the attempt on the Los Angeles tower had been disclosed earlier. This time it drew headlines in some newspapers on a day when no one story dominated the news, and overshadowed revelations about what the President knew about the breach of the New Orleans levees and when he knew it.

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