We've previously discussed the Underpants Gnomes of South Park. They sneak into kids' rooms at night and filch their underpants. Why? Because, it turns out, they have a business plan:
Phase 1: Collect underpants
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Profit!
None of the gnomes really understand what "Phase 2" involves, but they're pretty sure it's there.
Reading Andrew Sullivan's comments on the AP stories about the pre-Katrina White House briefings reminds me of the gnomes. Andrew pronounces the AP stories "damning evidence of this president's eery [sic] detachment." He comments:
Four days after the storm, Bush declared "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." He was either lying or had slept through his pre-storm meetings. The latter is possible. The record shows he asked not a single question in the pre-Katrina briefing. Maybe he was miffed his vacation had been spoiled. Michael Brown seems on the ball in comparison.Like the Underpants Gnomes, Andrew apparently sees something like this as happening:
Phase 1: Bush is "briefed".
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Hundreds of Lives Saved! Or something.
But there is, in fact, no credible scenario that gets you from Phase 1 to 3 in this case. Andrew doesn't even attempt to provide one. Neither does the AP.
Andrew frequently claims to be a "conservative", but episodes like this show that he's in thrall to the unconservative utopian vision. If only wise and moral people were in charge, this could not have happened! We must find the stupid and malicious people! Give us scapegoats! Preferably ones named "Bush"!
All this would be bad enough if the AP stories accurately summarized what was actually said in the briefings. But people who've compared the provided source material with the AP stories conclude that the AP significantly misrepresented the briefing content. See, for example, Power Line:
The AP article is fatally compromised by its factual errors, and adds nothing to our understanding of the issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina. … The AP took what appears to have been a substantial quantity of leaked material, and turned it into a brief against the Bush administration.Or Big Lizards:
This is a hit piece in search of a body. First, they lie and falsely claim that a video shows Bush being warned in an emergency meeting that the levees might break -- when all the video really shows is a TV weatherman (on the tube) warning people that water might flow over the top of the levees. And second, they have no clue themselves what Bush might have done if someone had told him there was a chance they might break... run over to New Orleans and stick his finger in the nearest dike?Or WizBang:
There's lots of heavy breathing on the left about the AP story, but unfortunately for them it has all the hallmarks of the Bush Air National Guard story on 60 Minutes II by Dan Rather and Mary Mapes. The AP has dressed up mundane video to try and prove that President Bush (and everyone else) knew that the levees in New Orleans were going to breech. The problem is the evidence they present in their story to make that point does nothing of the sort.
Could Andrew Sullivan have bothered to do the critical thinking and skeptical fact-checking of original sources, just like at Power Line, Big Lizards, and WizBang? Sure, he could have. But apparently that kind of thing is not in his business plan.