Friday, January 25, 2008

Lost in the Bush E-mail Flap

My conservative friends roundly defend President Bush's right to keep his e-mails confidential. The rationale given most often is for national security. They paint anyone not agreeing with them, liberals and independents, as being "for the terrorists". In their mind, it's better e-mails are lost than get in the hands of evil doers. I disagree with this as a blanket statement. I think the public has the right to know anything about White House e-mails regarding the Executive's response to Hurricane Katrina.

The missing two year period includes Hurricane Katrina. Congress already tried to get e-mails on Bush's slothful response. The first excuse given by White House lawyers, "There are too many of them (71 million)." When Congress narrowed it down to electronic communications between Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Adviser, and Andy Card, Chief of Staff, attorneys invoked the now hauntingly familiar, executive privilege.

Well, it turns out Congress had it wrong. They needed any communication from junior staffer Joe Hagin, not Frances "fresh from vacation and headed to Saudi Arabia" Townsend. How many days does it take to fly to Saudi Arabia? How long does it take to freshen up and make oneself presentable? Fran presented a letter from President Bush to the Saudi monarch on September 5th, 2005. Hospital patients were still being evacuated on September 3rd.

After Frances got back, she whitewashed the White House disaster response. Her Feb. 2006 Lessons Learned report became the next phase in the Bush disaster. It omitted the hospital with the largest number of patient deaths. Carlyle's LifeCare lost 24 patients in the storm. Did Fran send or receive any e-mails from her friends at Carlyle, LifeCare, Tenet Healthcare, or their hired lobbyist guns? Those are the ones I want to see.

How would viewing communications between Joe, Fran, Andy, and other leaders open up secrets terrorists could then use against us? Terror existed in our homeland in dead, steamy toxic hospitals.

Bush's Katrina analysis meekly offered the unprecedented disaster defense, a few hero stories and exhorted we must do better next time. It never stated who was responsible for hospital patient evacuations, nor did it analyze how those parties performed. This is odd as news footage showed President Bush asking Michael Brown about hospital patients the day Katrina struck.

What's now clear is the White House was AWOL on Katrina. Bush-Crawford, Cheney-Wyoming, Card-Maine, Condi-NYC and Fran were all on vacation as the hurricane approached. Press Secretary Scott McClellan noted Joe Hagin to be the White House man in charge for Katrina. After landfall, no one stepped forward as the official point person. Homeland Security Adviser Fran was dispatched to Saudi Arabia.

Maybe my conservative friends are right. If the White House e-mails come out, they could well show the terrorists that nobody was in charge. The problem is Americans suffered and died. It didn't happen at the hands of those who hate us, but from the inattention of those charged with protecting the homeland. That's why the e-mails on Katrina need to come out.

They could explain much, even put into context the feds approval of Carlyle's purchase of huge nursing home provider ManorCare. One might expect failing 24 hospital patients in a time of disaster to get deep scrutiny. Yet, this fact didn't receive the slightest sunshine during the review process.  ManorCare might have been the final icing on Fran's federal cake.

February 2006, Bush's Lessons Learned report omits Carlyle affiliate LifeCare's 24 (later determined to be 25) patient deaths in their New Orleans hospital (one of twenty one facilities). Report is authored by Frances Townsend.

November 2007, Fran tenders her resignation, citing her desire to do global risk management for a large bank or financial services firm.

December 2007, Bush administration approves Carlyle's purchase of ManorCare with over 500 facilities, mostly nursing homes.

January 2008, Fran leaves office "unscathed" after complaining of the constant threat of subpoenas and predicting al Qaeda will do something around the 2008 election. Mrs. Townsend hires Bob Barnett, attorney to advise her on her career moves. Mr. Barnett's bio highlights his A list clients, which includes senior members of the Carlyle Group.

It's almost February. How soon will the world find out where Fran Townsend lands in a global risk management role? Certainly she helped Carlyle manage their risks. After buying ManorCare, the huge private equity underwriter closed on a chain of Japanese nursing homes. They purchased the land and buildings of Bon Sejour Grand's resident paid nursing homes. With the Japanese attention to detail and quality, Fran's omission may have been Carlyle's good fortune. Will they reciprocate?

Update 11-24-10:  The Obama administration released e-mails regarding the BP oil spew, Obama's Katrina.  The Bush administration classified Fran's August/September 2005 e-mails.  They won't be released

Update 6-11-12:  The Obama administration refused to release 21 documents regarding the BP oil spew.  The list of documents included e-mails.

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