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Friday, January 12, 2007

Lieberman gives President a pass on Katrina


Oh my...I'm sooo shocked.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the only Democrat to endorse President Bush's new plan for Iraq, has quietly backed away from his pre-election demands that the White House turn over potentially embarrassing documents relating to its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

Lieberman's reversal underscores the new role that he is seeking to play in the Senate as the leading apostle of bipartisanship, especially on national-security issues. On Wednesday night, Bush conspicuously cited Lieberman's advice as being the inspiration for creating a new "bipartisan working group" on Capitol Hill that he said will "help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror."

But the decision by Lieberman, the new chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to back away from the committee's Katrina probe is already dismaying public-interest groups and others who hoped the Democratic victory in November would lead to more aggressive investigations of one of the White House's most spectacular foul-ups.

Last year, when he was running for re-election in Connecticut, Lieberman was a vocal critic of the administration's handling of Katrina. He was especially dismayed by its failure to turn over key records that could have shed light on internal White House deliberations about the hurricane, including those involving President Bush.

Asserting that there were "too many important questions that cannot be answered," Lieberman and other committee Democrats complained in a statement last year that the panel "did not receive information or documents showing what actually was going on in the White House."

Among the missing material: the record of a videoconference in the White House Situation Room in which former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown said he warned senior officials about the dire situation in New Orleans, but was greeted with "deafening silence." Also missing: records believed to include messages and conversations involving the president, Vice President Dick Cheney and their top aides during the days in late August and early September 2005 when the Katrina disaster was unfolding and thousands of city residents were flocking to overcrowded shelters and hanging onto rooftops awaiting rescue.

But now that he chairs the homeland panel-and is in a position to subpoena the records-Lieberman has decided not to pursue the material, according to Leslie Phillips, the senator’s chief committee spokeswoman. "The senator now intends to focus his attention on the future security of the American people and other matters and does not expect to revisit the White House's role in Katrina," she told NEWSWEEK.

Phillips said that Lieberman may still follow up on some matters related to Katrina contracting. But in listing the Connecticut senator’s top priorities for the panel, she cited other areas, such as reform of homeland-security agencies and legislation promoting tighter security at U.S. seaports. Asked whether Lieberman’s new stand might feed complaints that he has become too close to the White House, Phillips responded: "The senator is an independent Democrat and answers only to the people who elected him to office and to his own conscience."
With a majority of the people in Connecticut AGAINST this war and CRITICAL of the President's handling of Katrina, just who is Lieberman answering to? It's clearly not to the people who re-elected him to office but rahter to the Washington conservatives who backed his campaign.
But in the view of White House critics, the Katrina fallout is far from over. They view the missing White House material, along with contracting foul-ups and abuses, as an important part of the story of the disaster that befell a major American city. "Katrina was perhaps the government's biggest failure ever," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a liberal watchdog group. "For the Congress not to be willing to stand up to the White House and demand to know who's accountable is a total abdication of their responsibility. How serious about oversight are they if they're not willing to flex their muscle over this one? Wasn't the election about holding the government accountable? Congress has the power for oversight, and the mandate. Does it have the will?"
Will someone please tell me, in light of everythign Lieberman has done this week, why one should feel that he'll caucus with the Democrats?

So, this is the oversight Lieberman promised during his campaign...