Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and a clutch of top officials gave a press briefing today on President Bush's new National Guard-infused border security program. Hilarity ensues:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if I've understood everything I've heard, you don't yet know what missions the 6,000 National Guardsmen will do, you don't know who is going to pay for them, you don't know what the rules of engagement will be for them, you don't know what size units there will be or how long -- whether they'll be two-week or six-month deployments, and you don't really know exactly which equipment they're going to have. So my question is, how long have you been working on this?
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: I guess that's what they call a loaded question. And I guess you haven't understood what we've said, so I'm going to try to make it really clear. . .
That's a nice strong opener for his response. But it's downhill from there:
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: [I]t is true that, sitting here right now, I do not have in my head every single mission set. . .
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale jumps in to help:
ASSISTANT SECRETARY McHALE: . . . We don't know how many helicopters we're going to put up, but we know to a near certainty that we'll have helicopters. . . We don't know where we will place censors [sic] to detect illegal movement, but it's almost a certainty that we will have censors [sic]. . . We don't know how many barriers or roads we're going to build, but clearly, we will be putting new barriers in place, and clearly, we will be building new roads . . . So your question, sir, is a fair one.
The reporter tries again:
QUESTION: What I'm really trying to understand, is this a well-thought-out plan, or is it something that's just been --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY McHALE: Yes, sir, it is.
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: in quite exquisite detail. . .
GENERAL BLUM: This is clearly a well-thought-out plan[.]