Pointing fingers as the death count climbs

Mike Leavitt, the head of Health and Human Services, said this weekend that the numbers of dead from the hurricane will continue to rise, and that when the cleanup is finished, it will be clear that the storm killed thousands of people.

So all that's left is to regain control of the city, find all the dead and help the wounded, and manage to shore up the levees before another storm arrives, right?

Well, the equally important battle, at least to Bush Administration spinmeisters, is the crucial PR effort that will clear Bush and his advisors of all blame for the extent of the devastation.

Even though right now it doesn't look good for Bush, we've all seen the kind of black magic Rove can work with our pliant and unquestioning media. Now, the New York times reports that Rove is coordinating the campaign to whitewash the disaster with lies and pointed fingers.

The fingers are pointing primarily to state and local officials who, according to Rove's scheme, failed to act quickly to contain the disaster.

The Washington Post, cited in the Guardian (and criticized in Peek, the L-Files and elsewhere), quoted "unnamed White House officials" as

[directing] blame at the Louisiana governor, Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, for being slow to call for outside help and to declare a state of emergency. Ms Blanco, meanwhile, resisted a federal attempt to take over control of local police and national guard units - an attempt some Louisiana officials saw as a political manoeuvre that would help blame the weak response in the first week on the state.
Of course, the big problem with this is that Blanco did indeed declare a state of emergency on August 26, while Bush was still lounging on his estate in Crawford.

And sticking to the story that worked so well in the wake of 9/11, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said Katrina's effects were a complete surprise to everyone:
[Chertoff] called the situation an "ultra-catastrophe," as if the hurricane and flood were unrelated events. "That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight," he said.
Of course, another small problem with this argument is that so many people have pointed out that Bush's policies made it inevitable, and that many federal agencies predicted the size and effects of just such a hurricane.

On top of that, in the days prior to Katrina's arrival, officials at the National Hurricane Center briefed Chertoff and FEMA Director Mike Brown on the damage likely to be caused by Katrina.

Instead of heeding the warning and mobilizing what meager emergency response units are left in the wake of Bush's war and gutting of the economy, the administration ignored it, Bush and Cheney hunkered down in Texas and Wyoming, and millions of lives were ruined because of them.

So be wary of the news in the coming days. Rove is on the warpath, and he's shifting reality wherever he can.

In the meantime, the Scotsman writes, 'Bush forced to admit U.S. is unable to cope.' But even though he's asking for help from Europe, he's rejecting Castro's offer of 1,100 doctors to help Katrina's victims.

That's the Bush administration: putting politics before all else.

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