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The Collins Moment

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Maine’s Senator Susan Collins chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and along with ranking Democratic member Senator Joseph Lieberman, announced today that the Committee will investigate what happened in New Orleans last week.

If the Committee conducts a fair investigation, it will be a very useful exercise for America. Judging from Senator Lieberman’s comments at the press conference today, in which he bluntly concluded that “governmental failures in preparing for and repsonding to Hurricane Katrina allowed much more human sufering and property destruction to occur than should have, that is the sad and stunning fact,” this is not going to be an inquest, but a penalty phase.

Someone ought to have asked Senator Lieberman exactly how much more human life was lost and property damage occured because of “governmental failures.” Since he can assert as “stunning fact” that such losses occured, he should be asked to quantify this additional loss with at least a rough estimate, and to give us at least his preliminary assessment of responsibility.

Lieberman and his colleagues on the Committee –Carl Levin, Daniel Akaka, Tom Carper, Mark Dayton, Frank Lautenberg, and Mark Pryor– aren’t going to be in a hurry to expose the New Orleans mayor and their Democratic colleague Governor Blanco.

The Republicans on this Committee: Senator Collins, Ted Stevens, John Warner, Pete Domenici, Robert Bennett, Lincoln Chafee, George Voiovich, Norm Coleman and Tom Coburn. Not exactly the nine GOP senators I’d send out for in this situation, but it will be Collins’ job to make sure these nine don’t get rolled by the Dems. Norm Coleman has been a star on the UN investigations front. I hope he gets a lot of assistance from his colleagues in this effort.

The President is going to get flayed by the Democrats in this bunch, with only Stevens, Bennett, Coleman and Coburn as reliable and tough investigators cartain to stand up to MSM slings and arrows. It is Collins’ job to make sure that the hearings focus the country’s attention on chain-of-command and the mayor’s and the governor’s roles before they began accusing the feds of being the cause of all their problems.

The stakes will be very high for the members of this committee.

Here’s more Lieberman:

“There is another America that is left behind, and um, and you can call for a mandatory evacuation but if thousands of people don’t have the means to evacuate, then government has to be able to provide them with that and clearly government didn’t, so those are random…that’s probably more than I should have said that just jump out at all of us, and we want to get under them and find out how it happened and make sure it never happens again.”

Note that before the first witness has been called, Liebermnan has already exonerated the New orleans and Louisiana governments from the most serious charge they face –that of inexcusble delay in ordering an evacuation.

Yeah, it is going to be a fair inquiry.

I hope House Speaker Hastert and House Majority Leader Delay insist on a special committee to conduct this inquiry on their side of the Congress, and that they include every prosecutor in the body. The deck is clearly stacked in the Senate to convict President Bush and his team of at least negligence. It would be wonderful to have a committee with leadership ready to call partisan posturing just that look into this subject as well.


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