From Josh Marshall:
On the Al Franken show this afternoon I mentioned this article from today’s Salt Lake Tribune which tells the story of about a thousand firefighters from around the country who volunteered to serve in the Katrina devastation areas. But when they arrived in Atlanta to be shipped out to various disaster zones in the region, they found out that they were going to be used as FEMA community relations specialists. And they were to spend a day in Atlanta getting training on community relations, sexual harassment awareness, et al. This of course while life and death situations were still the order of the day along a whole stretch of the Gulf Coast.
It’s an article you’ve really got a to read to appreciate the full measure of folly and surreality.
But the graf at the end of the piece really puts everything in perspective, and gives some sense what the Bush administration really has in mind when it talks about a crisis. The paper reports that one team finally was sent to the region …
As specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew’s first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
You can’t make this stuff up.
No, you can’t. Billmon has his own take:
I guess this is what Bush was talking about yesterday when he called himself a "problem solver." But one of these days he and the Rovians really ought to take a stab at trying to solve other people’s problems.
I’m just surprised they didn’t shove some boots and a helmet on Shrub and stick him behind the wheel of a fire engine. Maybe with a big banner on the side: "Lets Roll!"
So what’s next? Will they round up some doctors and have them tag along with Shrub while he visits patients at an emergency field hospital? (Ideally, a tidy tent full of young, attractive African American patients — nothing bloody or threatening.) Surely that can be arranged.
Or how about a town meeting with the engineers plugging the levee breaks? They could explain what they’re doing and show Shrub their plans, and he could nod his head and pretend like he understands what they’re talking about. That shouldn’t take more than a half a day out of their schedule. And what’s another half day when most of those people have been trapped in their attics for a week already?
UPDATE: More here:
In a document that went out from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency asked for firefighters with very specific skills and who were capable of working in austere conditions. When they got to a center in Atlanta, they found out their jobs would be public relations.
"Our job was to advertise a phone number for FEMA," said Portage Assistant Fire Chief Bill Lundy. "We were going to be given shirts and hats with a phone number on it and flyers, and sent to shelters, and we were going to pass out flyers."