The report was about the evacuees at the convention center, some dying and some already dead. Mr. Bush had been briefed that morning by his homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, who was getting much of his information from Mr. Brown and was not aware of what was occurring there. The news account was the first that the president and his top advisers had heard not only of the conditions at the convention center but even that there were people there at all.I'm not sure "cognitive dissonance" quite covers it. But, isn't this a kind of basic function of government: to be able to operate in a crisis? If CNN could get us that information, why couldn't Bush get it? And as the head of the Administration, why doesn't the buck stop with him?
"He's not a screamer," a senior aide said of the president. But Mr. Bush, angry, directed the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., to find out what was going on.
"The frustration throughout the week was getting good, reliable information," said the aide, who demanded anonymity so as not to be identified in disclosing inner workings of the White House. "Getting truth on the ground in New Orleans was very difficult."
If Mr. Bush was upset with Mr. Brown at that point, he did not show it. When he traveled to the Gulf Coast the next day, he stood with him and, before the cameras, cheerfully said, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
Why isn't there a "buck" at all?