"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Doin' a Heck Of a Job 

Most of you have probably seen some discussion of today's New York Times article about Michael Brown - if you haven't, click just about any title on my blogroll and you're likely to find a reference to the piece. Much of the commentary has focused on the obvious weirdness - while ostensibly blame-gaming Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Brown actually does a pretty good job of destroying the reputations of DHS Sec. Michael Chertoff and the numbskulls at the White House.

But I was struck by something a bit different, something which I would not have noticed but for having read the article first in my local fishwrap, and then later at the original NYT site. Describing an exchange between Brown and Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott (R-Vermin), the version of the article at the NYT site (no registration required, for now) says:
There were also conflicts with the Congressional delegations that wanted resources for their offices and districts, FEMA officials said. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi said he "resisted aggressively" a decision by Mr. Brown to dispatch a Navy medical ship to Louisiana instead of his home state.

Okay, that's a little juicy. But here's the version that was reprinted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
FEMA officials say a complicating factor was the attempt of members of Congress to direct help to their districts. Some asked for FEMA to station personnel in their district offices, a request the short-handed agency rejected.

Brown and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., clashed over where to send the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort. Brown wanted to send the Comfort to Louisiana to meet medical needs; Lott demanded that the ship come to his state, and he prevailed.

Lott acknowledged the conflict with Brown.

Wow, that's a lot more damning than the "official" version. I wonder how and why the story got re-worked before it went up on the Grey Lady's Web site; I also wonder where Lott (and the other, unnamed members of Congress) comes off telling the presumptive disaster-management professionals where to deploy their resources. I'm also curious how, exactly, Lott "prevailed" in the end - in other words, who overruled Brownie on Lott's behalf? Was it Chertoff? Or someone higher up? Inquiring minds want to know.

Update: Corrected bone-headed mistake in which I blamed the wrong state for Trent Lott.

 

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