September 2, 2005

"Maybe, because of this hurricane, we got our press corps back."

Said Bill Maher, just now, on his HBO show, finding what he called a "silver lining." He's interviewing Anderson Cooper who displayed some passion and anger about hurricane relief. Maher's theory is that the hurricane experience will cure reporters of what he thinks is their supine acceptance of what Bush tells them about the war. Cooper distances himself from the question.


Sloanasaurus said...

I hope the press is fair in finding out all the facts about this disaster.

When heads have cooled, I think the "big mistake" of the disaster will turn out to be the failure to evacuate many of the poorer citzens of New Orleans. I don't think the city ever had any plan to evacuate these citizens. Perhaps they just assumed that everyone would find a way out.

I think the levy issue will be dismissed because 1) the levies would never offer complete protection and 2) I have heard that the levy that broke was actually a new levy.

The delay in relief effort will also be dismissed as being the "big mistake." Although the delay was/is exasperating, it will end up contributing more to emotions and politcal partisanship than the actual death toll. However, this doesn't mean FEMA should be let off the hook for the delay (if there was a delay).

The looting and lawlessness is also more of a sensational story. There have been some deaths and crimes reported. But, it too will have little impact on the final human cost.

I think most of the deaths in this disaster will be from drowning. People getting caught in structures underwater or getting injured while in the water, etc... which would have occurred on the first day of the flood. As such, the only way to prevent these deaths would have been evacuation.

Steve Donohue said...

Because you know how much of a free pass George Bush has gotten on the Iraq war. Are we that far removed from Sheehan-a-thon?

Actually, I was kind of impressed by Cooper over this week. At first he struck me as a little over-the-top and bloviating, but it seemed that being down there in the carnage really got to him. It certainly seemed genuine.

miklos rosza said...

I watched CNN very early this morning (Pacific time) and Soledad something was over the top and editorializing so that hardly one sentence came out of her mouth sans high school-level indignant sarcasm. I hadn't watched TV much for a while and was taken by surprise.

dix said...

Like Steven, I was impressed with Cooper this weekend. He interviewed Mary Landrieu (sp) and her first words were to thank President Clinton and (former) President Bush for coming to Louisiana and she wanted to thank particular congressmen and Senators for their support. Cooper lit into her like I've never seen a reporter light into someone about how people don't want to hear about politicians backslapping and gladhanding each other while people there were 'dying on the ground'.

Paul said...

It's not Bush who tells the press corps to basically hole up in Baghdad and feed off of press releases. I'm pretty sure they can embed themselves if they wish. Michael Yon and some others do.

ziyahaaq said...

Yes, Cooper went up a couple notchs in my book. I would have said Maher dropped a couple, but he's already at rock bottom.

I'm also sure Maher was dismayed by the video conference reporter (Zaheed) saying that Iraq was making political progress. Maher is awfully hateful (gays, christians, Republicans,) for being a comedian.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

Small wonder that James Wolcott roots for hurricanes. They're so handy.

Gavin said...

Being a british expat I've long been amazed at how tame the news media here is. Anyone who's seen Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight (BBC) knows what I mean - platitudes and empty rhetoric will get you slammed in seconds regardless of political stripe. If Paxman chews out a Labour Party member nobody snubs him as a partisan because they know that his next Conservative Party guest will get the same treatment. This has led to politicians being far more transparent. For example, the Prime Minister isn't as untouchable as the President is here. In the Us the President is treated like royalty with journalists reminded that you do not speak to someone in office in a certain manner. In the UK journalists demand "you work for us damn it." Whereas President Bush can go months without any journalists questions (and then often vetted) Prime Minister Blair will face tough questions on a daily basis. Essentially this means that you can't coast into office with good PR and shiny white teeth - you have to be able to convince people you know what you are doing. A good example of the difference is George Galloway's visit to Congress months ago. The whole affair had a made-for-tv-movie feel. Yet Galloway wouldn't play ball because he faces irrate British journalists every day. The consequence was a repugnant man made mincemeat of Congress.

What seems to have happened here is that "accountability" has become confused with "partisan." When Anderson Cooper takes Jim DeMint to task it's blamed on liberal media. When Shephard Smith digs at Carl Levin it's partisan Fox News. Hopefully Maher is right (for a change) and the news media have seen the light.

John Thacker said...

The delay in relief effort, honestly, was much smaller than the delay in relief effort for Hurricane Andrew, or Hugo, or any of the other large hurricanes we've seen. Three days is much better than the nine it took for Andrew.

However, the impact of the delay was so much worse because of both the looting and breakdown of order that happened so quickly (note that in Charleston when Hugo hit the police chief immediately applied force and maintained order-- but that wasn't entirely possible here), the fact that so many people didn't (and often couldn't) evacuate, and because geography ensured that almost all the land routes in and out of New Orleans were impassible immediately afterwards, making rescue efforts difficult. A lot more terrible things happened in those three days than in the nine days following Andrew.

Of all of those problems, the delay in evacuation and lack of effort to get those without cars out is the biggest mistake to me, not least because it's the one that could have been most easily prevented.

Steve Donohue said...

In response to what Gavin said- I remember during the run-up to the British elections there was a show where each of the main three candidates went before a studio audience and answered questions for thirty minutes. The questions from the audience were your standard stock, and not all that impressive, on the whole. But the host- I want to say his name was David Dimbleby- was absolutely fantastic. None of the candidates on the program were comfortable the entire time they were up there, because Dimbleby had a rejoinder for every question. He was like the ultimate debate teacher, with responses to both sides of the issue.

It fascinated me to say the least, and I can't help but think we'd benefit in America if we had a press corps that could sometimes rise to at least the level of perceived impartiality.

Brando said...

I have to say, I have always been impressed with the politics in Britain. Although I disagree with Blair on a lot, I am still impressed by the vigor, confidence, and grace with which Blair addresses parliament and addresses the public on important issues. The fact that Bush often cannot communicate a good grasp of issues and must constantly repeat talking points or just drivel (like, he says “people are working hard” over and over and over) is grounds in itself for being unfit for the highest office in the land, in my opinion.

Granted, democrats dish out drivel too (if Al Gore had said “lock box” one more time I would have passed out, and some of Kerry’s verbal machinations left one feeling confused and violated.) But I find it reprehensible, for example, that the questions journalists are allowed to ask during Bush press conferences are “pre-approved” beforehand , which suggests that Bush only deigns himself required to answer questions he would like to answer rather than what the people want answered.

I am sorry if this sounds like Bush bashing, but I find Bush to be a shameful representative of our country for this very reason, especially now when the country is looking for somebody to cut through the BS and provide strong leadership. In any case, I agree with Steven in that I can’t imagine America wouldn’t be better off if the media was more capable of holding public officials of any stripe accountable in the way that Gavin described.

Sloanasaurus said...

"...I agree with Steven in that I can’t imagine America wouldn’t be better off if the media was more capable of holding public officials of any stripe accountable in the way that Gavin described...."

So you think the press was reasonable for holding Clinton accountable with Monicagate?

Brando said...

Well, Sloan, Clinton eventually did come clean, acknowledged his moral failing/mistake and was effectively held accountable. That is as I see it a good thing.

But what goes around comes around, eh? The press corps may indeed be back, and not a minute too soon for the country's sake. W is gonna wish all he'd had was a fling with an intern...

James d. said...

Ann, I've read some good stuff on other blogs, and even attempted to throw in some thoughts on my normally unserious blog. But you've captured more of what people are feeling across the board, in my opinion, than anyone else so far. Save Brendan Loy, in his so-terribly prescient writings.

I do have a real comment besides praising your blog, haha.

The press, even if it had done a weak, or biased or whatever job of covering important events, was at least covering most events, or trying to, from 9/11 through the 2004 elections. But in 2005, the return to the rollercoaster of unimportant stories (the missing-white-woman thing, Michael Jackson, etc) was something that smacked right out of July 2001. Or most of the 1990s.

That's the press I'm glad to have back, however temporarily. I can't stress enough how much I separate that statement from the fact that it took this hurricane to do so.

9/11 didn't make me mad. Sad, yes. But there was something about New Yorkers and the response of basically all involved that said, be strong.

Here...even the strong responses are in the midst of ineptitude, spread widely and among all levels and parties. This is tragic, this is tragedy in a far different way.