Last night, I saw what may just be a turning point in media coverage of the Bush administration. After four years of pathetic on-the-one-handism, I saw a network anchor say something that should have been said a long time ago. Here's CNN's Aaron Brown, after a piece about the Pentagon's response to Katrina:
BROWN: I know. But you know, at some point, you know, these guys, I mean, I shouldn't say this, but you hear these people in Washington saying oh, no, this is - things are going fine. It's OK. And you want to say what planet are you people on?
I mean, come on. Now I've vented that. And I'll stop. Jamie, have a good weekend.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, PENTAGON CORRESPONDANT: Thanks, you, too.
BROWN: Good work. I apologize, sort of.
Good job, Aaron, and good job not apologizing, too.
Later in the same program, they ran the following story. It's forceful, accurate, and critical. It does exactly what an independent media in a free country is supposed to do. I'm printing the entire transcript because I want to congratulate CNN for finally getting its head out of its ass:
BROWN: After every disaster, there are inevitable inquiries to what went wrong and why. And hindsight as they say has the clarity of 20/20. But this is not one of those stories. This is a story of a disaster and terrible consequences that were mapped out very precisely years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the police in there? Where are the National Guard?
BROWN (voice-over): If you only listen to officials, local, state, or federal, you would think it never occurred to anyone that this could happen in New Orleans.
LT. RUSSEL HONORE, COMMANDING GENERAL OF FIRST ARMY: None of us, nobody was clairvoyant enough to perceive the damage that was going to be brought by this storm.
BROWN: In fact, emergency services, people at all levels of government knew or should have known, this is exactly what would happen.
WALTER S. MAESTRI, DR., DIR. JEFFERSON PARISH EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Many people who chose not to leave are going to simply drown in their beds.
BROWN: A major hurricane in New Orleans has long been near the top of the government's list of most likely catastrophes. And journalists have warned of a doomsday scenario in the Gulf. Three years ago, the New Orleans Times-Picayune published a five part series on what could happen if a major hurricane hit New Orleans. It reads like a screenplay for what's been unfolding in the last week.
JOHN MCQUADE, STAFF WRITER, TIMES-PICAYUNE: Our article said that you would have rising waters, and that people would be trapped in their houses, would have to climb up on rooftops because there would be no way to get out of the city, and thus have to be rescued by helicopter or boat.
Most of the things we talked about in our article, regrettably, did come true.
BROWN: For instance, the paper reported "If enough water from Lake Pontchartrain topped the levee system along its south shore, the result would be apocalyptic. Vast areas would be submerged for days or weeks until the engineers dynamited the levees to let the water escape."
The lake did just that. And now engineers are scrambling to plug the brakes and drain the city where the levees are now holding water in, rather than keeping it out.
The paper also predicted, "A large population of low income residents do not own cars and would have to depend on an untested emergency public system to evacuate them."
The faces of the left behind are of those people. Mostly poor, overwhelmingly black, people for whom evacuation would have been difficult, if not impossible.
The reports warned of a human storm. "Amid this maelstrom, the estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome." We have witnessed now this week that hellish struggle for survival at the Superdome.
The paper also quoted Red Cross estimates that tens of thousands would die.
MCQUADE: I would expect that - and hope that the death toll would be lower than the Red Cross prediction, but of course, nobody really has an accurate count right now.
BROWN: So while officials, local, state and federal, can say they are doing all they can, and they can promise to do more, what they can't say is that they didn't know.
MCQUADE: It's pretty obvious to everybody that there was not an adequate plan to deal with this scenario. There was not an authoritative play book on everything everybody should do to move material and personnel into the city, rescue people quickly enough so that the breakdown in order would not have occurred.
I assume this kind of accurate reporting will produce a whole new round of "liberal media" name calling. Conservatives can complain all they want, but they can't hide from the truth. It's only unfortunate that it took such a tragic disaster for the media to remember what's it's around for.
So for once, let me say, good job CNN. Keep it up.
UPDATE: CNN's now a piece called "The Big Disconnet on New Orleans." Check it out.