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Verdict first

Now comes a Senate committee that in the best Queen of Hearts tradition appears to have reached its verdict before the trial begins

Issue: "Katrina: Week 2," Sept. 17, 2005

The announcement on Sept. 6 from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut that the Senate's Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee would conduct an investigation into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's assault on the Gulf Coast was not welcome news.

Though Republicans outnumber Democrats on the committee nine to seven, the GOP members include such Republican critics of George W. Bush as George Voinovich of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Other GOP members like John Warner and Pete Domenici have never been known as tough infighters when the Democrats go hyper-partisan, and this investigation is certain to be as partisan as the storm's path was destructive.

While a rapper was denouncing the president as uncaring for blacks in a nationally televised NBC special designed to raise money for the victims of the storm, and the mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana were blasting every Bush administration official they could name, the internet was alive with fierce condemnation of the White House. Now comes a Senate committee that in the best Queen of Hearts tradition appears to have reached its verdict before the trial begins.

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Sen. Lieberman, in the press conference announcing the investigation, asserted with great certainty the "stunning fact" that "governmental failures in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Katrina allowed much more human suffering and property destruction to occur than should have" occurred. But the senator is assuming facts, and this is not the way to conduct an investigation. Answering questions before a single witness is called is a fine start to a witch hunt, which is what I am expecting from a committee that includes Michigan's Carl Levin and New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg.

It is Sen. Collins' job to assure that the witness list and the proceedings are not an elaborate dance choreographed to exonerate the locals at the expense of the feds, thus keeping the record in step with the elite media's diagnosis.

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