FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA
By Al Kamen
Friday, October 26, 2007; Page A19
Johnson stood behind a lectern and began with an overview before saying he would take a few questions. The first questions were about the "commodities" being shipped to Southern California and how officials are dealing with people who refuse to evacuate. He responded eloquently.
He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter -- and was asked an oddly in-house question about "what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration" signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.
FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for a "last question."
"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."
"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team."
"And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness.
Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We're told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.
What a bunch of silly twits. I'd expect this sort of thing at a Bush & Co. press-conference, but not from an agency such as FEMA on the heels of a devastating natural disaster. I mean, why even bother planting shills in the press corps and asking these questions in the first place? Are your remarks that ill-prepared that you can't simply phrase them in the form of a statement? And, how are the people expected to receive an accurate appraisal of FEMA's actions if they deceive them in such a way as this? Why hide the truth and run scared?
Posted By Dan to The Wisdom of a Distracted Mind at 10/26/2007 10:23:00 AM