The Corner

Katrina, Journalistic Malpractice, Etc

The LA Times “Blowback” section has a breathless and, I must say, silly screed directed at me today by someone named Marie Gould. The gist is that I shouldn’t have dared mention the fact that the media screwed up its Katrina coverage and failed to remember it amidst a blizzard of two-year anniversary stories on virtually every aspect of the disaster. Rather, I should have attacked the Army Corps of Engineers because that’s what a real conservative would do, or something like that. Ms. Gould fails to grasp that my column was actually about the coverage of the anniversary and how the press sees no need to dredge up its failures — just everyone else’s. The really funny part is that she apparently thinks even one column reminding the public the press screwed up too is too many, even though it’s one out of at least a couple thousand articles and TV segments. And if she thinks that column was a partisan hack’s defense of President Bush, she’s got very poor reading comprehension skills.

Meanwhile, Ed Driscoll has long post on other media screw-ups pegged to my column (Warning: He says nice things about me). It’s worth a gander.

Update: You can read the whole letter, here below the fold.

“Partisan hack” is a tough appellation, but Mr. Goldberg has earned it by throwing away the rare opportunity The Times affords him to present a cogent conservative viewpoint on the Op-Ed page of a national newspaper. Every investigation has found that the damage caused inside New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina was not a “natural disaster” but the result of the greatest engineering failure in the nation’s history. That engineering was planned, conducted and executed by the federal government, lending support to the conservative argument that government is the problem, not the answer.

Mr. Goldberg chooses the anniversary to do the cheap, quick work of throwing together a column attacking media coverage. He must have had a busy weekend planned.

Had he decided to earn his fee with a little serious research, he would have found ample ammunition for positing that basic conservative argument about government.

A Nexis search would have taught him that the Times-Picayune and other newspapers have documented the staggering malfeasance of the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency in charge of the so-called New Orleans hurricane protection system. This included ignoring basic engineering principles of the day; disregarding warnings by other agencies that elevations being used to build floodwalls and levees were as much as 2 feet lower than the corps thought; twice disregarding research forwarded by the National Weather Service that the model storm the corps was planning for had been upgraded to a stronger threat; and failing to conduct required review of soil investigation and engineering plans as required by federal law. That’s just a partial list.

Many of the nation’s foremost engineers long ago decided the corps had become technically stagnant and have called for the feds to allow nongovernment engineering firms bid on much of the work now being controlled by the corps — a very conservative point of view.

Mr. Goldberg could have added some thought to the debate by pursuing that claim. Instead he choose the lazy way out with a column everyone has read a million times: Attacking the liberal media for attacking President Bush.

Thanks for nothing, Mr. Goldberg.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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