President Bush wasted no time in using the emergency response to the California wildfires as a means of escaping culpability for his Administration from blame for its lethal non-response to Katrina.

According to the the Times-Picayune, while touring the California disaster area, Bush said, “It makes a significant difference when you have somebody in the statehouse willing to take the lead.”

Bush’s blame game further underlines the importance of getting at the truth about what was perhaps the most colossal failure of emergency response by the government in our nation’s history.

I posted earlier this year about Senator Joe Lieberman–chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee–doing a 180 on the need for hearings after his favorite Kisser, President Bush, helped him get re-elected against antiwar Democratic nominee Ned Lamont. I raised the question then of whether Senator Barack Obama–also a member of the committee–would speak out on the need for hearings that Lieberman himself had once described as necessary, saying, “Only through a thorough and comprehensive investigation of what went wrong [can] we be assured that the government will know what steps are necessary to get it right the next time.” At the time, it seemed Obama had no interest in taking on another Democratic Caucus member. But now, as he attempts to wage a more aggressive campaign to become the next President, Obama again has the opportunity to distinguish himself by speaking the simple truth that our nation needs to uncover what transpired during Katrina. On the House side, Representative Henry Waxman, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, had told me, “I have a strong interest in the response to Hurricane Katrina, and it is under consideration by the Committee.” It remains to be seen whether any action will be taken there as well.

In the absence of such hearings, Bush and too many in the mainstream media will continue to engage in revisionism. For example, this recent Washington Post editorial carried water for the Bush Administration: “Californians have something that Louisianans, in particular those in New Orleans, didn’t have when they needed it most: leadership, in this case from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the San Diego mayor on down.” In a letter to the editor, Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, responded, “Californians have other things that Louisianans and Mississippians did not: running water, electricity, open stores, passable roadways and an engaged federal partner.”

Why wasn’t that federal partner engaged? And don’t the American people need and deserve those answers?