Scary answers from Bush today on Katrina. As always, it's hard to convey a sense of the president's, um, unique speaking style from transcribing what he said. So I encourage you to go listen to the NPR piece. If you don't have time you can read below.
Bush on why he said "I don't think anyone anticipated a breach of the levees."
BUSH: What I was refering to is this. When that storm came by a lot of people said we dodged the bullet. When that storm came through at first people said phew. There was a sense of relaxation. That's what I was referring to. And I - I myself thought we had dodged the bullet and ya know why. Because I was listening to people, uh, probably over the airwaves, saying 'the bullet has been dodged.' And that was what I was referring to. Of course there were plans in case the levee had been breached. But there was a sense of relaxation at the moment, the critical moment, and thanks for giving me a chance to clarify that.
First there's the fact that the even if Bush meant that no one anticipated a breach of levees in Katrina, he's wrong. The National Weather Service's warning prior to the storm said this:
COASTAL STORM SURGE FLOODING OF 18 TO 22 FEET ABOVE NORMAL TIDE LEVELS...LOCALLY AS HIGH AS 28 FEET...ALONG WITH LARGE AND DANGEROUS BATTERING WAVES...CAN BE EXPECTED NEAR AND TO THE EAST OF WHERE THE CENTER MAKES LANDFALL. SOME LEVEES IN THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA COULD BE OVERTOPPED. SIGNIFICANT STORM SURGE FLOODING WILL OCCUR ELSEWHERE ALONG THE CENTRAL AND NORTHEASTERN GULF OF MEXICO COAST.
Second, it's astonishing that Bush manages to pretty explicitly blame the media for his own laziness. "And I - I myself thought we had dodged the bullet and ya know why. Because I was listening to people, uh, probably over the airwaves, saying 'the bullet has been dodged.'" Well, he must have turned off the TV on Monday, because the mainstream media coverage of the levee breach was fairly thorough, continuous, and overall about as good as I've seen the media do in this country. That's the thing, though: what kind of president blames the mainstream media, the same media his party has made a small industry out of criticizing, for not giving him the information that he should have gotten anyway? Well, I guess, this kind of president. One that is not remotely capable of dealing with reality.
Here he is when asked about when he realized the extent of the Katrina disaster:
I knew that a big storm was coming on Monday that's why I spoke to the country on Monday morning about it I said "there's a big storm coming." I had pre-signed emergency declarations in anticipation of a big storm coming. Which is by the way extraordinary. Most emergencies the president signs after the storm has hit. It's a rare occasion for the president to anticipate the severity of the storm and sign the documentation prior to the storm. So in other words we anticipated it that there was a storm coming. But as the man's question said basically implied ya know wasn't there a moment when everyone said well gosh 'we dodged the bullet,' but the bullet hasn't been dodged.
Look what a great president I am. Can you believe how well prepared we are? I pre-signed emergency declaration. Stop the fucking presses. I took two seconds out of my busy days clearing brush to sign some paper. I'm really extraordinary if you think about it. Not only did I anticipate that there was a storm coming, I actually put my name on some paper as well. God, what fucking genius I am.
The point here, of course, is that I don't see how any reasonable could hear the president's words and not realize what a petulant, petty, image-obsessed man he is. Dan Froomkin might be right that "an emperor-has-no-clothes moment seems upon us."