Pity about Bush and the New Orleans levees

We have all been having a knowing chuckle over the widely published story about President George W. Bush having been briefed well before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans about the danger that the levees would be breached, apparently giving the lie to Bush’s subsequent assertion that nobody had foreseen that this might happen.  Thus the BBC reported on 2 March:

Video shows Bush Katrina warning
Video showing President George W Bush being warned on the eve of Hurricane Katrina that New Orleans’ flood defences could be overcome has emerged.  The footage, obtained by the Associated Press, also shows Mr Bush being told of the risk to evacuees in the Superdome.
Speaking by video link from his Texan holiday ranch on 28 August, Mr Bush tells federal disaster officials: "We are fully prepared to help." Critics say more could have been done sooner to evacuate the city.  Mr Bush does not ask any questions as the situation is outlined to him.
"I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" — George W Bush, speaking after the disaster.
The BBC’s Justin Webb reporting from Washington said the footage did the president no favours.  It shows plainly worried officials telling Mr Bush very clearly before the storm hit that it could breach New Orleans’ flood barriers.

Sadly for those whose admiration for the President is in short supply, including me, the story turns out to be wrong.  AP has now issued the following correction:

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In a March 1 story, The Associated Press reported that federal disaster officials warned President George W. Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees in New Orleans, citing confidential video footage of an Aug. 28 briefing among U.S. officials.
The Army Corps of Engineers considers a breach a hole developing in a levee rather than an overrun. The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking.
The day before the storm hit, Bush was told there were grave concerns that the levees could be overrun. It wasn’t until the next morning, as the storm was hitting, that Michael Brown, then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Bush had inquired about reports of breaches. Bush did not participate in that briefing.

(Hat-tips: Clive Davis’s blog; The Corner)

How many of us have seen the correction printed or broadcast by any of the media who ran the original story?  Perhaps I’ve missed it.

Less seriously, it’s faintly irritating to hear 99 per cent of the British television and radio newsreaders and pundits, including some actually speaking from New Orleans, continuing to pronounce the name of that city "NeworLEENS" (or sometimes, a shade pretentiously, "NeworLEEYuns".  Has none of them heard Americans say the name, or read about President Bush going even further and calling the place "NyORlins"?  They can’t all have cloth ears, surely.


3 Responses

  1. Martin Kelly says:

    At least the correction enables him to plead the old Railtrack defence – clearly, it was the wrong type of flood.

  2. Carl Lundquist says:

    It seems to be pronounced either Noo-ORleens or Nawlins, respectively northern and southern US. 
    No one was betting on a rupture of levees prior to Katrina.  Topping is bad enough tho.    I have heard the Brown meetings on TV.   As I have said elsewhere, what I heard is a Plum Book minor political appointee of no particular ability completely out of his depth and in a state of panic over his crisis.
    I have been thru an number of disasters as a mid level muncipal public works bureaucrat :  2 earthquakes, 2 riots, a dam bursting, and God knows how many landslides and brush fires.  The good emergency manager is spending damn little time in meetings explaining things to the boss, and a lot of time actually doing the things.   Browns main role in Katrina is to act as federal fall guy.  Unfortunately, it appears that role was his best fit.

  3. Domini says:

    Please don’t pronounce it "Nawlins" EVER!  Only ignorant, swamp people speak that way … and I wouldn’t want that spreading any further.  In every decent University in the United States you will hear it pronounced "Noo-ORLEEEEENS" or "Noo-ORLINNS".

    Brian writes: Well, thanks for that: it has the true ring of authority. But I’m afraid we barbarians east of the big pond will continue to have difficulty with the ‘Noo’, wedded as we are to ‘Nyoo’ as in ‘few’ but not as in ‘grew’…