Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do Answers Lie Levels Below the Decider?

Having tried for nearly two years to get questions answered about the White House Lessons Learned report on Hurricane Katrina, I realize I might have set my sights too high in expecting George W. Bush, Frances Townsend, or any of my elected officials to respond to my numerous inquiries.

It turns out the big dogs were on vacation for Katrina, George Bush, Andrew Card, Condi Rice, and Fran Townsend. The man in charge was Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, at least Scotty McClellan said so.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Joe Hagin has been very involved in it, and Joe Hagin updated the President earlier this morning on the latest in terms of the assessments that are being made and the response efforts. We have search and rescue teams deployed. We have ongoing efforts to make sure assistance is getting to those in need.

But in terms of the White House interagency task force, that's being led by our domestic policy council. And in terms of -- you know, Joe Hagin has really been a point person in terms of overseeing efforts from the White House.

I hadn't thought to write Joe with my questions. I've sent them to just about everyone else, but to the guy in charge! It turns out Fran was on her way to Saudi Arabia to hand deliver a message to the monarchy about the crisis. Just after the last hospital patient was pulled from a steaming toxic soup, Fran landed in the Middle East. It's hard to coordinate federal recovery efforts as Homeland Security Adviser from a plane over the Atlantic or Mediterranean. But Joe had it all under control. And Fran knew first hand about the President's hard work.

"I reject outright any suggestion that President Bush was anything less than fully involved."

So Joe Hagin, here are my questions:

1) Why did Frances Townsend omit any mention of the hospital with the largest patient death toll from her Lessons Learned report? The Carlyle Group's LifeCare Hospitals must be pleased about this omission as they enter 24 potential wrongful death lawsuits.

2) Did Tenet Healthcare or LifeCare lobbyists approach the White House, requesting their firms be left out of the investigation? They invested $1.8 million in lobbyist for 2005-2006, the period of the storm and report creation.

3) Did the White House get my e-mails in the aftermath of the storm? As someone who evacuated a Texas Gulf Coast hospital before then record strength Hurricane Gilbert, I knew the potential for thousands of patients to remain stuck in dead hospitals. Having worked in a 725 bed dead, river flooded Virginia hospital, I know how quickly they can become death traps. Did my dozens of e-mails get lost later, along with the 5-10 million missing e-mails from October 2003 to October 2005? If you need mine, I still have copies.

Write me back, Joe. No one else wants to answer my questions. And since you were the man in charge, maybe I've finally gotten to the right place.

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