Anticipation redux

When this administration is consigned to history's wastebin, an appropriate epitaph may be: "I don't think anyone anticipated ..." Go ahead and fill in the blank.

It undoubtedly falls squarely into the cateogry of Affirming That Which We Already Knew, but today's Washington Post and New York Times both have inside-the-paper items noting that well, yes, the White House *did* anticipate that the levees in New Orleans would breach during Hurricane Katrina.

From the Post:


A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

You might recall that on September 1, President Bush went on television and peddled this whopper: "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," he said. "Now we're having to deal with it, and will."

That talking point sounds an awful lot like Condoleezza Rice a few years back: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile."

While I don't have time to google it up, I will not be surprised when an alert reader chimes in with a similar soundbite about how no one could have anticipated post-Saddam chaos in Iraq. (BTW, don't miss the Times piece on the hamstringing of rebuilding efforts.)

Anyway, getting back to today's iteration, the Times brings the capper to the whole thing.

A White House spokesman, asked about the seeming contradiction between Mr. Bush's statement on Sept. 1 and the warning as the storm approached, said the president meant to say that once the storm passed and it initially looked as if New Orleans had gotten through the hurricane without catastrophic damage, no one anticipated at that point that the levees would be breached.

I'm glad they cleared that up.

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