FEMA, coming of its botched response to Hurricane Katrina, needed to make a solid showing in the way it responded to the wildfires, in Southern California.
Early reports from the frontlines indicated that FEMA’s response had been quick and targeted to the needs of the region—that was until yesterday, when stories began to circulate about Tuesday’s faked news conference.
Apparently last Tuesday, FEMA informed news organizations that it was holding a new conference 15 minutes prior to the event—insufficient notice for reporters to make it on time to the briefing. Like much of what passes for transparency in the Bush administration, FEMA’s Deputy Administrator, Harvey Johnson, apparently with a nod to the adage of “the show must go on, had agency staff members act as stand-ins for missing media members and begin asking questions, the kind of questions that those in the business would characterize as “soft ball” questions.
While it might be laughable for its stupidity, if it wasn't the nation’s top agency, tasked with coordinating the first response to disasters in the U.S. Actually, FEMA’s disdain for media protocol is nothing new. Back in September of 2006, in the aftermath of Katrina, FEMA had requested that new photographers refrain from photographing victims and refused to allow reporters and photographers to accompany FEMA personnel on boats looking for victims. There was little or no coverage about this at the time.
FEMA issued the following statement, which in BushCo fashion, is just dripping with disingenuousness and coated with the veneer of cynicism that all Bush communiques with the media are known for.
FEMA's goal is to get information out as soon as possible, and in trying to do so we made an error in judgment. Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received. We are reviewing our press procedures and will make the changes necessary to ensure that all of our communications are straight forward and transparent.
At FEMA, our focus is disaster operations and, in this case, it means working closely with the State of California to support their response to the devastating fires. We're committed to being there for the State and being good partners. In working to do so we did not put enough focus on how we communicate to the public.
The real story -- how well the response and recovery elements are working in this disaster -- should not be lost because of how we tried to meet the needs of the media in distributing facts.
We can and must do better, and apologize for this error in judgment.
Contrary to FEMA’s statement, the real story is how much this smacks of Soviet-era newspeak that we used to shake our heads and chuckle, when viewed from afar—little did we know that our leaders were watching and looking to imitate a similar lack of transparency in our own country.
It just keeps getting weirder and weirder all the time with this group of war criminals and political hacks.