Monday, October 29, 2007

October 29, 2007

You've probably heard by now about the fake news conference the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA, as we affectionately call it) held last week during the California fires. Pretty clever--they gave only reporters fifteen minutes notice, so they couldn't get there and had to listen by phone, on lines where they could only listen, not ask questions. FEMA staffers asked the questions, which was, of course, just dandy for the FEMA boss who was answering them. No ugly surprises here.

Apologies afterward, of course. The FEMA question answerer confessed an "error of judgement." White House press secretary Dina Perino said it wouldn't happen again and was a tactic the White house would never employ.

But I don't know. Washington isn't, even on its best days, a pure search for truth; it's a battle between reporters and spokespeople who want to spin whatever the story is their way. The government, the individual politicians, Congressmen and others in the government want to tell you only the stuff that helps them sell their program or defend their vote. Truth? That's somebody else's gig.

So instead of scolding FEMA, maybe the feds should take this useful experiment and expand it. I mean, can't you just see W there behind the podium or out in the Rose Garden, taking questions from Ms.Perino and a few of her colleagues? Makes sticking to your message--something politicians usually want to do--a whole lot easier. I'll bet they'd love it at State and at the Pentagon too. Cancel those press passes! Make those clowns listen on the phone instead! Way to go, bureaucracy!

And if it works at press conferences, maybe it would have other uses. I mean, what if we taxpayers could be our own IRS, our own auditors, pay as much tax as we think we ought to pay. Could the government adapt to that? Would enough money come in for there to be a government? Don't know, but it might be fun finding out.

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