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Small world. The Times

Small world. The Times and the Post note that one possible reason for the White House's slow response to Katrina was that so many key appointees were on vacation. A number, for instance, were in Greece for <$Ad$> the wedding of White House communications advisor Nicolle Devenish.

It so happens Devenish is marrying Mark Wallace, who, it turns out, took over from the esteemed Michael Brown as General Counsel of FEMA when Brown ascended from General Counsel to Deputy Director.

Wallace was General Counsel at FEMA as the agency was being transitioned into the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 and 2003. After that he took a different job at DHS before becoming Deputy Campaign Manager of the Bush-Cheney 2004.

According to The Hotline (10/16/03), Wallace got his start in politics as Jeb Bush's driver in 1994.

(ed. note: Thanks to TPM Reader MC for the tip.)

As noted the Washington

As noted, the Washington Post got burned today by a "senior Bush official" who told them that Gov. Blanco of Louisiana had never declared a state of emergency in the site -- a claim the Post printed as fact. Yet the claim was demonstrably false and by late afternoon the Post had been compelled to print a correction.

This week's Newsweek contains the same false claim -- and though their recital of the anecdote is unsourced, common sense suggests that someone or some operation fed them both the same line, which neither organization checked out before running.

Monday's Times, not surprisingly, confirms that the White House damage control operation is being run by Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett.

Add it up.

And who will report this out?

Monday WaPo One reason

Monday WaPo: "One reason for the slow White House response, said a Republican who has been in contact with several officials, is that so many high-level officials and aides were on vacation. Vice President Cheney, for instance, was in Wyoming and did not return unil Thursday, and Nicolle Devenish, the president's top communications adviser, is getting married in Greece with a number of mid-level aides in attendance."

Did Newsweek get spun

Did Newsweek get spun too?

One way or another, let's get this straightened out once and for all.

As we've discussed over the course of the day, the Washington Post ran an article today in which they reported, on the say-so of an unidentified "senior Bush official", that as late as yesterday Louisiana Gov. Blanco still hadn't gotten around to declaring a state of emergency. This, allegedly, had prevented a more rapid federal response.

Only this claim seemed to be belied by a copious public record, not least of which was the actual declaration of a state of emergency dated August 26th, 2005, available on the state of Louisiana website.

The falsity of what the "senior Bush official" told the Post apparently turned out to be so patently obvious that before the day was out the Post issued a correction, noting Blanco's declaration on the 26th.

Yet the new issue of Newsweek says this of Blanco, as of September 1st, almost a week later ...

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco seemed uncertain and sluggish, hesitant to declare martial law or a state of emergency, which would have opened the door to more Pentagon help.

Now, all the rights and wrongs of this tragic debacle will turn on weightier facts than the day on which Blanco issued this declaration. But this claim, which appeared in two major national publications, seems to be patently false. In both the Post and Newsweek the anecdote appears as an illustration of Blanco's dawdling which prevented a more rapid federal response.

The Post got played by a senior administration official. Pretty odd that Newsweek would come up with the same false anecdote on their own, right?

Who's Newsweek's source?

For all the horror

For all the horror of what went on at the Superdome and the convention center in New Orleans, we know so much about those cases because they were central points. There were lots of journalists there and thus lots of coverage. But before too much more time goes by, I want to call your attention to a post Ed Kilgore did a few days ago at his site, in which he excerpted this passage from the blog currently being run by the New Orleans Times-Picayune ...

About 100 people have died at the Chalmette Slip after being pulled off their rooftops, waiting to be ferried up the river to the West Bank and bused out of the flood ravaged area, U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon, D-Napoleonville, said Thursday.

About 1,500 people were at the slip on Thursday afternoon, where critical supplies like food and water are scarce, he said. Melancon expressed serious frustration with the slow pace of getting these items to the people waiting to finish their journey to safety. Many of those at the slip were evacuated from a shelter set up at Chalmette High School that suffered massive flooding as the waters rose during Hurricane Katrina. Melancon said people are being plucked out of their water-surrounded houses, but the effort to get them out of Chalmette and provide them with sufficient sustenance is the problem.

A hundred people. Precise numbers <$NoAd$> are very difficult to nail down in the short-term under such circumstances. And the very round number suggests an estimate. But unless this story is wholly false, dozens of people died not of drowning or even before being rescued, but simply because they couldn't be moved from one way station to the next.

Why do people drop dead like this? Presumably a disproportionate number were old and at risk, or people with chronic illnesses without access to their medication. Depending on the circumstances, dehydration and/or dysentery probably played an important role. Whatever the details, how many stories like this will there be?

Check out this document

Check out this document that Larry Johnson has found, a National (disaster) Response Plan that the administration promulgated last December which seems to say explicitly that in the event of a catastrophic disaster the federal government need not wait for any explicit request for the local authorities in the affected regions.

Lesson learnedEarlier today we

Lesson learned?

Earlier today we noted that in today's papers the Post passed on a claim from a "senior Bush official" that "as of Saturday [i.e.,Sept.4], [Gov.]Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency."

As TPM -- and probably half the blogosphere -- pointed out, there is voluminous information in the public record showing this to be demonstrably false.

The Post just ran this correction ...

A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.

Good for them for correcting the record. But are they going to be taking more blind quotes from this senior official who got them to pass on misinformation to their readers?

And one other point: for all the truly foolish chattering about anonymous sources and blind quotes a few months ago, this is a terrific example of the worst sort of anonymous sourcing. This claim by the administration official was obviously meant to place blame on Gov. Blanco. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. Maybe she deserved blame. Reporters frequently have to rely on interested parties to bring key information to their attention.

But in this case, this is a straightforward factual assertion. What you do in such a case is find out whether it's true or not. If it is, you don't need to source it to your tipster. You run it as a fact. What you don't do is take an interested party's say-so on an easily verifiable claim and run it as a blind quote.

In light of the

In light of the post immediately below we've set up a thread over at TPMCafe to document, discuss and dissect that storm of disinformation the White House is putting out today to pass the buck on the debacle in New Orleans. Let us know what you heard on the Sunday shows, post links to the documents that contradict, etc.