Monday, September 12, 2005

The Last Word - For Now

Due to a server issue, Greg's site is no longer taking comments (as of 5:30 today). And as TIA readers are probably aware, I am loathe to let a debate go untouched. It is probably the stubborn, law-talking-guy in me. So, in lieu of my ability to pontificate at Belgravia Dispatch, I will post some of my comments over here. First, some more grist for the mill for the Blanco vs. Bush saga. From Time Magazine (hat tip to Kevin Drum, subscription required):

The day the storm hit, [Governor Blanco] asked President Bush for "everything you've got." But almost nothing arrived, and she couldn't wait any longer. So she called the White House and demanded to speak to the President. George Bush could not be located, two Louisiana officials told Time, so she asked for chief of staff Andrew Card, who was also unavailable. Finally, after being passed to another office or two, she left a message with DHS adviser Frances Frago Townsend. She waited hours but had to make another call herself before she finally got Bush on the line. "Help is on the way," he told her.
Next, a commenter at Belgravia Dispatch takes me to task for my reference to the Washington Post's fast and loose use of anonymous White House sources:

I think Eric got a little ahead of himself with the WaPo quote:

The claim that Blanco was too slow to act was predicated on a piece of misinformation from an "undisclosed White House source" quoted in the Washington Post. Given the track record, probably Rove. Here is the offending quote from the WaPo:

"As of Saturday, [Louisiana governor Kathleen] Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, [a] senior Bush official said."

That would be Saturday September 3.
Or, you know, Saturday August 27th. Depending on when the quote was given to the WaPo...[emphasis added by the commenter]
Right. Except, wrong. The Washington Post corrected their statement not because it was saying Blanco waited until Saturday the 27th, but because the source said Saturday the 3rd. The offending article itself was written on Sept. 4, and the original is pretty clear, from the context, that they were discussing the previous day, Sept. 3rd. The paragraphs leading up to the offending quotation were discussing events that occurred throughout the preceding days, including Wednesday the 31st, leading up to the 4th. When the article said "as of Saturday" the meaning was that she still hadn't made the request (no request yet, in fact), not that the request was, actually, over a week old.

Hence the correction:

A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.
Besides, the commenter's contention seems to be that there really was no mistake. But then why issue a correction stating that the original claimed that Blanco "had not declared a state of emergency" at all? Odd that. Wouldn't they just explain the situation ala the commenter's implausible hypothesis rather than issue an incorrect correction giving the public the false impression of erroneous reporting?

Laura Rozen links to more discussion of the incident, from the newspaper's own Howard Kurtz:

The Washington Post, like many news organizations, says it is trying to crack down on the use of anonymous sources. But the paper allowed a "senior administration official" to spin the story of the slow response to Katrina -- with a claim that turned out to be false.

On Sept. 4, the paper cited the "senior Bush official" as saying that as of the day before, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco "still had not declared a state of emergency." As The Post noted in a correction, Blanco, a Democrat, had declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26.[...]

Post National Editor Michael Abramowitz calls the incident "a bad mistake" that happened right on deadline. "We all feel bad about that," he says. "We should not have printed the information as background information, and it should have been checked. We fell down on the desk."
"[A]s of the day before" meaning Saturday, September 3rd says Mr. Kurtz. Is he wrong as well? Not to mention the reporter, Spencer Hsu, who acknowledged the error.

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