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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 3, 2006

Katrina tape shows administration failed

The newly leaked tape of a videoconference presidential briefing taken days before Hurricane Katrina doesn't tell the whole story.

For that, you need to see President Bush in action after the storm hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

With a straight face, President Bush told ABC News: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

This "who-could-have-known?" stance was one the administration repeatedly took in the aftermath of the storm that has killed more than 1,300 people, left 2,300 missing, and stranded thousands of people still waiting for relief.

But the briefing tape made it clear that the president and his aides not only could have known what was coming, they did know. The videoconference briefing held days before the storm gave Bush all the warnings he needed. Bush asked no questions, saying only that his administration was "fully prepared to help." Unfortunately, we now know it wasn't.

It also raises serious concerns as the relief effort in the Gulf moves slowly forward.

Is the president now fully engaged? Will the federal government now be ready when the next disaster approaches?

Clearly, these questions weigh heavily on the minds of those still wondering how the administration will help them piece together their devastated lives.

Congressional leaders, feeling misled by the president, are now calling for an independent probe of the Katrina response.

That's a good idea. But the focus should be less on what the president knew and when he knew it and more on our state of readiness today.

With a new hurricane season approaching, we'll need more than reassuring statements to give us confidence in Bush's leadership and his administration's ability to manage disasters.