Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it? Or some perverse act between consenting adults. But it is more than that. It is the difference between lying and not lying. It is the difference between honesty and distortion. It is the difference between whether the critics of George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina have an actual issue or just a fleeting wish. As often is the case, the devil is in the details. And how one chooses to use those details.
Let’s clarify some of those details out the outset. The two terms have to do with water and levees that are supposed to keep water out of places like New Orleans. When levees are “topped,” that means that the water level on the outside of the levee rises high enough to wash over the top of the levee. When “topping” occurs, only a relative little water gets past the levee. Contrast that with “breaching,” where part of the levee collapses and much more water gets in. As we all know, what damaged New Orleans so dramatically was the result not of water washing over the top of the levees, but of water rushing through gaping holes in the levees.
Four days after Katrina struck, Bush said: "I don't think anybody anticipated a breach of the levees." News sources and other of Mr. Bush’s critics have accused the President of lying when he said he wasn't warned that New Orleans’ levees could be breached during the storm. And just this Wednesday the Associated Press claimed, "federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees."
However, a video tape of a conference shows that what National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield actually told Mr. Bush was: "I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very grave concern," supporting the president's contention that the breaching of the levees was unanticipated.
On Thursday Mr. Mayfield told NBC News that he warned the President only that the levees might be topped, not breached, and that "nobody talked about the possibility of a levee breach or failure until after it happened" in the many conference calls he monitored. Mr. Mayfield further told Mr. Bush: "The forecast now suggests that there will be minimal flooding in the City of New Orleans itself."
What is it that motivates people like the President’s enemies to say things that aren’t true? Is it maliciousness? Are they just nasty, vile people who will use any issue, true or not, to score political points?
Are they just sloppy, failing to find out, or not worrying about, the truth before they shoot off their mouths?
Or are they just plain dumb, and don’t realize that someday the truth will come out, and they will look … dumb?
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