How is it that a NPR reporter seems to know more about what's going on on the ground in New Orleans than the Secretary of Homeland Security does? I don't know, but read this transcript of excerpts that I just made from this piece on today's All Things Considered. It's really disturbing. Chertoff doesn't admit until the end that he apparently didn't even know that there were thousands of people trapped in the Convention Center in New Orleans.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: Let me ask you about many images Americans are seeing today and hearing about. They are from the Convention Center in New Orleans. A CNN reporter described thousands of people, he says many of them[...] in the streets, no food, corpses and human waste. Our report John Burnett has seen the same things. How many days before your operation finds these people, brings them at least food water medical supplies if not gets them out of there.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well first let me tell there have been food water medical supplies to the superdome and that's happened almost from the beginning.
SIEGEL: But this is the Convention Center. These are people who are not allowed inside the Superdome.
CHERTOFF: Well but ya know we have brought this to the Superdome. There are uh stations, um in which we have put food water medical supplies. The limiting factor here is not that we don't have enough supplies.
SIEGEL: We are hearing from our reporter, and he's on another line right now, thousands of people at the Convention Center in New Orleans with no food. Zero.
CHERTOFF: I am telling you we are getting food and water to areas where people are staging. And uh ya know the one thing about an epispode like this is if you talk to someone and you get a rumor, where you get someone's anecdotal version of something. I think it's dangerous to exprapolate it all over the place.
SIEGEL: But Mr. Secretary, when you say that, uh, we shouldn't listen to rumors, these are things coming from reporters who have not only cover many many other hurricanes but who have covered wars and refugee camps. These are rumors they're seeing thousands of people there.
CHERTOFF: I would be... I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the Convention Center who don't have food and water. I can tell you that specifically the Superdome which was designated staging area for a large number of evacuees does have food and water and that we have teams putting food and water out at other designated staging areas.[...]
SIEGEL: And our reporter said two thousand people at the Convention Center without anything.
CHERTOFF: I understand and I can't argue with you about what your reporter tells you. I can only tell you that we are getting water and food and other supplies and people to where we happen to stage and where we can find them and where we can get it to them. And if you're asking me if somehow the national guard missed a group of people I will certainly call and make sure they don't miss them but I'm not in a position to argue with you about what your reporter says.
If you want to hear the following-up report from NPR's reporter, that's here. It's horrifying.
SIEGEL: [...]We heard some skepticism form the Secretary that there are a lot of people at the Convention Center in New Orleans without food. He says he hasn't heard of that.
JOHN BURNETT, REPORTER: Let me clarify for the Secretary and for everyone else what myself and producer Ann Hawk just drove away from, uh, three blocks from here at the Ernest Morial [sp?] Convention Center. There are, I estimate, two thousand people living like animanls in the city Convention Center and around it. They've been there since the hurricane. There's not food, there's absolutely no water, there's no medical treatment, there's no police and no security, and there are two dead bodies lying on the ground and in a wheelchair beside the Convention Center.[...] We understand that there was a 10 year old girl who was raped in the Convention Center in the last two nights. People are absolutely desperate there. I've never seen anything like this.[...]
It only gets worse from there, but you can listen to the whole thing. The report ends with this terse statement from Siegel:
SIEGEL: And later this afternoon Sec. Chertoff's spokewoman called and said after our interview with the Secretary of Homeland Secruity that he recieved a report confirming the situation at the Convention Center[...]
There's a reason we have partisan politics in this country, folks, and it's this. Incompetent people shouldn't be running things. The people of New Orleans are now paying the price for it.