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No Katrina Hearings? Gotcha, Joe | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

No Katrina Hearings? Gotcha, Joe

Senator Joseph Lieberman, chair of the Senate Homeland Security andGovernmental Affairs Committee, recently did a 180 and said thathe will not hold investigations into the disastrous Bush administration(non-)response to Hurricane Katrina. He said,"We don't want to play ‘gotcha' anymore" and that "looking back… wouldbe a waste of Congress' time."

In an attempt to explain the inexplicable Lieberman's spokeswomanLeslie Philips offered this somewhat bizarre statement: "The senatorbelieves a more productive use of his time and that of his staff is to…ensure that a response to a future catastrophe is better."

Huh? Isn't that the whole point of examining the mistakes that weremade and why they occurred? To make sure that we get it right the nexttime?

In fact, Phillips' statement was reminiscent of something Liebermanwrote in May, 2006 in support of the very investigations he is nowdismissing: "Only through a thorough and comprehensive investigation ofwhat went wrong [can] we be assured that the government will know whatsteps are necessary to get it right the next time." Lieberman also decried "a conscious strategy of slow-walking our investigation inthe hope that we would run out of time to follow the investigation'snatural progression to where it leads." He accused the White House ofordering witnesses not to respond to questions, and the Departments ofJustice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security of failing tocooperate as well.

But Lieberman Version 2006 was on the verge of losing his party'snomination for Senate and was desperately treading water to save hispolitical life. Lieberman Version 2007, in contrast, owes his newpolitical life in part to George Bush who steered Republican supporthis way in the general election. It's pay-back time.

Gotcha, Joe.

One hopes that others will pick up the ball dropped by the fecklessLieberman. Presidential candidate Barack Obama is a member ofLieberman's committee. This is a clear opportunity for him to speakout in support of common sense and against the "smallness ofpolitics"--a centerpiece of his campaign.

In the House, Representative Henry Waxman chairs the Committee onOversight and Government Reform. (Waxman is also a member of theCongressional Progressive Caucus, whose members chair the majority ofcommittees and subcommittees and have generally committed to making New Orleans a priority.) He told me today, "Ihave a strong interest in the response to Hurricane Katrina, and it isunder consideration by the Committee." But, according to Newsweek, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is "keep[ing] committees on a tight leash."

Former FEMA Director Michael Brown says there was a video conference inthe White House Situation Room, in which he warned "senior officials"about the disastrous situation and was met with "deafening silence." There are also believed to be records of conversations between Bush,Cheney, and aides as "the disaster was unfolding."

Joe Lieberman Version 2006 had it right. Joe Version 2007 is smokingsomething. Who will step up to ensure that our government learns thelessons it needs to learn to strengthen the security of all Americans?

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