The White House press corps–and Terry Moran of ABC News, in particular–gave Scott McClellan, the President’s spokesman, forty-two minutes of hell yesterday. Here’s one exchange:
Q I just want to follow up on David’s questions on accountability. First, just to get you on the record, where does the buck stop in this administration?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President.
Q All right. So he will be held accountable as the head of the government for the federal response that he’s already acknowledged was inadequate and unacceptable?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President’s most important responsibility is the safety and security of the American people. He talks about that often. That is his most important responsibility. Again, there’s going to be plenty of time to look at the facts and determine what went wrong and what went right and how the coordination was between the state and federal and local authorities. Right now we’ve got to continue doing everything we can in support of the ongoing operational activities on the ground in the region to help people.
Q Well, the President has said that this government can do many things at once: It can fight the war on terror, it can do operations in Iraq, and aid and comfort people in Louisiana. Can it not also find time to begin to hold people accountable? It sounds, Scott, as if the line that you’re giving us — which is, you don’t want to answer questions about accountability because there’s too much busy work going on —
MR. McCLELLAN: Wrong. No, wrong.
Q — is a way of ducking accountability.
MR. McCLELLAN: You don’t want to take away from the efforts that are going on right now. And if you start getting into that now, you’re pulling people out that are helping with the ongoing response, Terry. Not at all. The President made it very clear, I’m going to lead this effort and we’re going to make sure we find out what the facts were and what went wrong and what went right. But you don’t want to divert resources away from an ongoing response to a major catastrophe. And this is a major catastrophe that we — and we must remain focused on saving lives and sustaining lives and planning for the long-term. And that’s what we’re doing.
Q And there are people in Louisiana and Mississippi who are doing that job very well. Your job is to answer the questions.
MR. McCLELLAN: And I have.
Q By saying you won’t answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, by saying that there’s a time to look at those issues, but now is not the time, Terry.
Good to hear some of the hard questions are being asked. Maybe some day we can also have a discussion of climate change and hurricanes…or maybe I’m just dreaming. (Courtesy Tom Toles and the Washington Post.)