An Update On That Accountability Moment: As Predicted, We Missed It.

(crossposted at DailyKos)

I posted a diary here at the time, but you may have missed it or forgot it, so I’ll remind you:

On Thursday afternoon after Hurricane Katrina hit, House members got an e-mail that the House was convening in special session the next day to pass emergency Katrina relief. The e-mail gave a big wink and nod that we didn’t really need to come, that there would only be a voice vote so no one would ever known whether we showed up or not.

It wasn’t convenient, but I kind of thought it was my job to show up, and Raleigh is only 40 minutes or so flying time from Washington, so I went.

We had a quick debate and a voice vote, and then other members were allowed to speak after the vote. I wanted to express my sympathy for the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, especially since many North Carolinians have suffered greatly from hurricanes in the last decade.

As I listened to what other members said, I changed my mind about what I was going to say. I had heard Scott McClellan say on television the day before that “now is not the time for finger pointing.” And then I heard Republican after Republican say exactly the same words on the House floor, almost like they were not exercising independent judgment, but mindlessly parroting talking points prepared for them by someone else. Almost.

So when it was my turn to speak, this is what I said:

“…Mr. Speaker, I share the anger of many Americans at how shamefully inadequate our government’s response has been. Tens of thousands of Americans are living outside the walls of civilization. They are without food, they are without water to drink, they are without medicine or medical care, they are without effective shelter, they are without the protection against violence that law provides.

“The failures that led to that are not the failures of the last four days; but of the last four years.

“There have been repeated warnings that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were vulnerable to precisely what has occurred and yet our government was stunningly unprepared.”

I then rattled off all the members who had just said “now is not the time for finger pointing.” No, finger pointing would be partisanship in the face of a national tragedy. How distasteful.

I’ve never been one to flinch at the charge of partisanship, so I raised the distasteful subject:

“…Mr. Speaker, there has to come a time for accountability. If there is not accountability for the stunning failures that we have seen in our government’s response to this hurricane, we will fail again and again.

“I know that this administration thinks that accountability is an ephemeral thing. If there is an attempt at accountability too soon, it’s finger pointing. If there is an attempt at accountability too late, then it’s something you should get over. There is just a moment for accountability.

“Mr. Speaker, tell me when that moment will be. Tell me precisely when the moment will come for accountability for the failures of our response, for the failures of our planning that have led to the devastation and the hardships that we are seeing now.

“And Mr. Speaker, tell me where the line forms to ask hard questions. I yield back the balance of my time.”

So where do things stand with accountability now, six months later?

I’m sure you’ve seen the video in the last day or two of administration officials warning President Bush in the hours before Katrina made landfall that the levees surrounding New Orleans might not hold and the consequences of a failure of the levees would be catastrophic. A story in the Washington Post this morning said that “to critics…[the video] reinforces the conclusion that the government at its highest levels failed to respond aggressively enough to the danger bearing down on New Orleans.”

Well, yeah.

But the Administration was ready with its response to the video:

“…Bush advisers worry that it will reopen old wounds and complicate the President’s efforts to bring together quarreling parties to focus on reconstructing the city and the region.

“’We’re going back over very, very old ground,” said White House spokesman Trent Duffy. “The real danger here is it threatens to unravel the good relations we’ve built with state and local officials.’”p>

Yes, it would really be distasteful partisanship to try to gain political advantage by opening old wounds. So as predicted, the moment for accountability as come and gone.

And we missed it.

My friends all say I’m insufferable when I’m right.


Welcome, Rep. Miller

Thanks for taking a moment share this.

You're right on the money with the accountability issue. In my mind, that's one of the big three factors that will drive the November election agenda: Accountability, competence and integrity.

Well said.


PS It's better than being insufferable when you're wrong.


This diary SKYROCKETED to the top of the DKos recommended list. It's good to be a Congressman!

Especially when you're Brad Miller. Thanks again!

I say we open old wounds....

then rub in some salt. It's only the Republicans and their President who will feel the pain. I imagine the folks still cleaning up in the Gulf are pretty numb still.

For the Republicans there is never a good time for criticism. Ever. I just get more and more angry.

Thanks Brad! We need you in Washington, so count on us to do what we can to keep you there.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I appreciate that you spoke

I appreciate that you spoke out for accountability. It never sits well to hear a guilty party say "now is not the time for finger pointing." I wish I'd been able to use that line to such strong effect during my childhood cookie-jar-raiding days.


How in the name of pete can you consider my comment SPAM?

I'm not the chief cook,

but it looks like you may have gotten caught in some automated thingamabob running in the background. I'm sure Lance will check it out and remedy whatever needs remedying.

Sorry I can't help more.


Thanks Anglico. I am technologically challenged. I had said I wished that Brad Miller represented my district on the southeast coast.

What kind of mass-spammer are you!!!!

Stop clogging up our boards with these pre-packaged wishes!!!


Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Robert Pearson


If I had a nickel

for everytime someone called me Pearson or Patterson...I'd be a Republican probably.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.