To Gauge Neglect, Problems, President Set To Fly Over Walter Reed, Bldg. 18 Today
Bush Promising Action, "To Press Face Against Window"; Recommends DOD Follow Katrina Strategy
Facing yet more criticism over the treatment of wounded U.S. soldiers, the White House announced today that President Bush will fly over Walter Reed Medical Center, and its' Building 18 that is at the center of the controversy, in Air Force One to gauge for himself the neglect and problems.
With fresh headlines today today that top officials at Walter Reed, as well as the Army's surgeon general, members of the Congress and officials at the Pentagon knew of the problems for nearly three-years, President Bush is swinging back into his "Decider" role and taking action.
"The President," offered White House Spokesperson Tony Snow, "is jumping into his Hurricane Katrina strategy and will tackle this issue head-on. He's taking action and said he plans on "keeping his face firmly pressed against the window" as he flies over the grounds."
Snow also indicated that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in a meeting with the President this morning, "was strongly advised" to adopt the President's Hurricane Katrina plans in fixing the Walter Reed problem.
"The President," Snow continued, "wants to promise the soldiers, and the others at Walter Reed everything he promised New Orleans, for that city to get back on its' feet. He doesn't want to hold back on anything. He's ready to pledge, and pledge, action all day long."
Snow revealed, as evidence of the President's commitment to promise action, that "As soon as we heard about it, the President turned to me and said "Find out what the problem is and fix it."
Army Does "My Sister, My Daughter" Over Neglect Charges
Building 18 is a former hotel, across the street from the main Walter Reed grounds, that Dana Priest of the Washington Post exposed over two-weeks ago, as being in a decaying state, with mold, rotting walls and ceilings and mice, rat and insect infestations.
Initially, the Army was critical of the Washington Post for exposing the problems.
Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, chief of the Army Medical Command said that "I'm not sure it was an accurate representation ... It was a one-sided representation."
Within a few days of the article, and after a quick paint job, Kiley led a group of reporters around Building 18, boasting "I do not consider Building 18 to be substandard."
"We needed to do a better job on some of those rooms, and those of you that got in today saw that we frankly have fixed all of those problems. They weren't serious, and there weren't a lot of them."
That was quickly rebutted by Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, who said "We own that building, and we're going to take charge of it. The senior Army leadership takes full responsibility for the lack of quality of life at Building 18, and we're going to fix it."
A new controversy has been added to the problem, as Army Times is reporting, that soldiers who talked to the Washington Post and other media about the conditions at Building 18 have been the subject of punishment, in the form of 6:00 AM wake-up calls, 7:00AM inspections and new orders not to talk to the media.
Cheney Advocates Stiff Push Back Against Critics
Some speculate that such orders may have been issued by Vice President Dick Cheney, who was able to arrive back in Washington, from his trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan, without being followed home by terrorists.
Cheney, and/or a "senior government official" is said to be "extremely displeased" with the attention given to the problems at Walter Reed.
Cheney was overheard speaking on the telephone, to an unknown party, complaining about the issue.
"If we give aid and comfort to these critics of Walter Reed, and Building 18, it would validate the al Qaeda strategy."
Snow would neither confirm or deny reports the Cheney is battling with White House staff, advocating that that President Bush order in the flood lights and give a night time speech in front of Building 18, to bolster the Hurricane Katrina strategy as the right solution for the problems and push back at the critics.
"This isn't," offered Snow, "a bang-my-head-on-the-podium issue - yet."
The White House is banking on a photo opportunity like this, when President Bush flew over Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, to stem the criticism over Building 18 of the Walter Reed Medical Center. The President will be boarding Air Force One this afternoon, to cruise over site in a display of his leadership in solving the problem