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"Senators on the committee were dismayed."

October 21, 2005
by

I just love understatement. “Senators on the committee were dismayed” by an exchange of emails between the office of Michael Brown (slightly disgraced former FEMA director) and the desperate agency officials already on the ground in New Orleans:

On Aug. 31, Bahamonde e-mailed Brown to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that “estimates are many will die within hours.”

“Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical,” Bahamonde wrote. “The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner we can get them out.”

A short time later, Brown’s press secretary, Sharon Worthy, wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. “He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes,” Worthy wrote.

“Restaurants are getting busy,” she said. “We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you.”

In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had failed, Bahamonde said he asked for guidance but did not get a response.

“He just said, ‘Thank you,’ and that he was going to call the White House,” Bahamonde said.

Senators on the committee were dismayed.

“We will examine further why critical information provided by Mr. Bahamonde was either discounted, misunderstood, or simply not acted upon,” said GOP Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record) of Maine, who heads the committee. She decried the “complete disconnect between senior officials and the reality of the situation.”

OK, I know I’m piling on, but let’s just savor part of that again:

“Restaurants are getting busy,” she said. “We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you.”

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