Burying the Lede, Big Time

Here is the Army Corps of Engineers admitting that federal taxpayers paid to drown the center of the Crescent City.
04/06/2006 02:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

It's still big news to most of the country, apparently, that what happened in New Orleans was a man-made, not a natural disaster. Now we're learning that there's an even better place to bury embarassing admissions than in late Friday afternoon press releases, timed to get into the least-read papers and least-watched newscasts of the week: testimony mid-week before a Senate Appropriations sub-committee. The Times Picayune, alone among the nation's major media, has the story:

- In the closest thing yet to a mea culpa, the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged Wednesday that a "design failure" led to the breach of the 17th Street Canal levee that flooded much of the city during Hurricane Katrina.

Lt. Gen. Carl Strock told a Senate committee that the corps neglected to consider the possibility that floodwalls atop the 17th Street Canal levee would lurch away from their footings under significant water pressure and eat away at the earthen barriers below.

"We did not account for that occurring," Strock said after the Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. "It could be called a design failure."

Nice use of the subjunctive. What else could it be called? Nixon must be kicking himself that he doesn't have Nixon to kick around any more. He should have said, "Mistakes could be said to have been made."

It could be called a journalism failure that this story will go no farther on today's news agenda. Yet, here is the Corps admitting responsibility for the disaster in much of New Orleans, admitting, in effect, that federal taxpayers paid to drown the center of the Crescent City. Brian, is there room on the newscast that just won a Peabody for its Katrina coverage, of this item?