September 19, 2005

What if...?

In today's Press Briefing at the White House (as of this writing, not yet posted at the White House site), Press Secretary Scott McClellan responded to several questions from reporters with, and I paraphrase, "that's a what-if question, and I don't respond to what-ifs."

Now I know that if a reporter asked a silly what-if question like "what if the moon was made of cheese?", it probably would not deserve an answer.

But since the real world in which most people live, work and think, is made up of a series of what-ifs, it seems that a reasonable what-if question deserves a reasonable answer.

What if the car breaks down? What if I lose my job? What if we can't pay for child care? What if we lose our health insurance? What if mom or dad get sick? What if our heating fuel price skyrockets, along with our gas prices? What if our home is destroyed by flood, or fire, or hurricane? What-ifs are everywhere, and every human confronts them. Not Scott McClellan, it seems.

In fact, the federal government undertakes thinking about and planning for what-ifs all the time.

The Department of Defense (DOD) studies thousands of what-ifs every year in its strategic and tactical planning around the world. If it isn't doing that, we're all in big trouble.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) studies the what-ifs of terrorist attacks; the where, the when, the how, the possible responses, the who. If it isn't doing that, we're all in big trouble.

The Department of Health and Human Services has people who study what-ifs regarding the outbreak of disease and how well prepared we are to respond. If it doesn't do that, we're all in big trouble.

The Department of the Treasury, through the Secret Service, conducts ongoing intense studies of potential attacks on the President, wherever and whenever he goes. If it doesn't do that, he's in big trouble.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) studies the what-ifs of natural disasters and how to respond to them with both pre-planning and post-disaster rescue, relief and recovery. If it doesn't do that, we're all in big trouble.

And here's the rub.

Had Scott McClellan been the head of FEMA, and been asked by a reporter "What if a Category 5 hurricane hit New Orleans, would he have responded, "I don't do what-ifs?"

Of course, we all know that it's the people of the Gulf Coast region the the United States who are in big trouble.

So, the next time a White House reporter asks a question of Scott McClellan which he then throws back as a "what-if", just tell Scott that "what-ifs" are really important, that the American people deserve to know if the government is thinking about the what-ifs, and to just shut up already, and answer the damn question.

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