'Screaming' Time Writer Tells Maddow It Was Army Corps of Engineers Who Killed '1,000' During Katrina

You could call it progress in media bias. For years, liberal journalists have blamed Team Bush for the death of hundreds in Hurricane Katrina. The major media found that theme of fatal incompetence simply irresistible. Time’s Michael Grunwald, who has written in-depth articles and a book about the Army Corps of Engineers, is bringing the focus back to long-standing government policies over decades.

But even Grunwald is using harsh language that Time magazine would usually disparage as talk-radio bluster. He said "Hurricane Katrina was a man-made disaster. And some of us have been screaming about that for several years...those of us who have followed this -- you know, we‘re angry about the Army Corps killing 1,000 people."

The occasion to revisit Katrina came from federal District Judge Stanwood Duval, who ruled in favor of plaintiffs who sued the federal government for compensation over hurricane damage. Duval charged the Army Corps with "monumental negligence" in its maintenance of a man-made shipping channel called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet:

MADDOW: First of all, let me ask you if I've just got the essentials right. I mean, this is history and law and science. And I don't pretend that I totally understand all of this. Have I misstated anything?

GRUNWALD: I think you got the basics, Rachel. I think, you know, Hurricane Katrina was a manmade disaster. And some of us have been screaming about that for several years.

Now, unfortunately, the main problems that the Army Corps had involved this sort of the way they built the levees, the way they designed them, the way they engineered them. The levees were a mess. But you can‘t sue them over the levees.

It is true that this Mississippi River gulf outlet did sort of intensify and amplify and increase the velocity of the storm surge. Everybody always knew that this was really kind of a hurricane highway pointed at the city‘s gut.

So that sort of provided a loophole for this judge to say, "Hey, the Army Corps -- you‘re allowed legally to screw up your flood protection, but you can‘t build a navigation channel." It‘s like if, you know, a Navy cruiser bumped into these levees and broke them, you know, the Navy would be responsible.

MADDOW: Well, as you say, the narrowness of this ruling is mostly because of the legal constraints here and the legal precedents and the laws that prohibit you from suing them for some other specific things. But despite that narrowness, do you see this as having a bigger political impact than just the potential for people being paid compensation?

GRUNWALD: Well, it‘s interesting. I mean, you could sort of sense in the judge‘s anger at the Army Corps, which he felt was misleading him, you know, was sort of cooking the books to try to make the case that the gulf outlet didn‘t matter, which has really been a pattern with the Army Corps.

And of course, you know, those of us who have followed this -- you know, we‘re angry about the Army Corps killing 1,000 people. Now, that said, it‘s really hard to make the case that the Mississippi River gulf outlet is the -- you know, the best example or even, you know, a primary example of the way that the corps screwed up.

But you know, I think this will provide a hook for people to say, "Hey, you know, the federal government did this. You know, this wasn‘t the fault of people living in harm‘s way. They were put in harm‘s way. Now, what can we do about it?"

This is where liberal journalists fail to be moderate enough to be trusted by political independents. It's scientifically ridiculous to insist Katrina was a "man-made disaster," as if the Bush administration or the Army Corps created the hurricane and directed it into New Orleans.

It's liberal political pandering to insist that there people living "in harm's way" should never be judged as irresponsible for failing to evacuate.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis