Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Fool From FEMA


Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS [graphic added]

"If you load responsibility on a man unworthy of it he will always betray himself." August Heckscher

There's almost nothing more ludicrous than a fool defending his indefensible actions. Especially by mounting a bogus, self-serving offense. I nearly levitated with disbelief listening to Michael Brown tell His Side of the Story to the special House committee investigating the response to Hurricane Katrina.

When questioned, legitimately, by Congress about the inexcusable lag time in evacuating New Orleans--resulting in thousands stranded without food, water or relief for days on end--Brown claimed FEMA was "prepared but overwhelmed" to handle Katrina's enormous scope.

"So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans." Brown sneered at the committee.

Well, yes. In fact we do. We expect FEMA's director to captain the Federal Emergency Management Agency's job by doing his -- or is that too much to ask?


Apparently it is. Brown, in a near frenzy of self-righteous anger, tried to lay responsibility for the disastrous FEMA bungles on everyone's doorstep but his own. What he did is called Ring and Run. He's been removed from his position so he rang the bells of local Louisiana officials by blaming the catastrophe on their actions -- then weaseled out of danger onto his version of the mea culpa high road.

"I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together. I just couldn't pull that off," Brown whined, implying it was his interpersonal skills, not his management ones, that were lacking. And of course, that local officials were ultimately at fault for more important failures.

Mr. Brown's in the right church, wrong pew. What he couldn't pull off was directing the implementation of a complex disaster plan which was already in place, awaiting its commander. This wasn't rocket science, it was a logistically designed system meant to be implemented by the appropriate government agency on the ground.

But Michael Brown in all his unmasked incompetence is a screaming example of the Bush patronage machine at it worst. All the blame-gaming and obfuscating in the world doesn't change the fact that Director Brown was egregiously unqualified for the job in the first place.

"I probably should have just resigned my post earlier and gone public with some of these things, because I have a great admiration for the men and women of FEMA and what they do, and they don't deserve what they've been getting." Say what? He's implying the country's blaming FEMA's field personal for their leaders' monumental screw-up? It's outrageous. The man has no shame.

We know they don't just jump in their cars and hit the road based on a TV weather report. They stand ready to be deployed. And when they were--finally, finally!--we watched dedicated FEMA employees swing survivors to safety from helicopters, fish dead bodies out of putrid water, slog door to door for days trying to save lives. Yet to deflect our attention from his own mistakes, their former Fearless Leader claims we're on a witch hunt for them? Get real. They're the Heroes. He's the goat ... Brownie the Guileless Goat.

So what, in the end, is Brownie's punishment? In the upside-down looking-glass world of the Bush administration, he gets not a slap on the wrist, but a cushy reward. A position as consultant to the government in reviewing FEMA's culpability for the bungled national response to Hurricane Katrina.

This is beyond chutzpah. Giving a seat at the table to the guy who left the barn door open is a fool's errand. And in this case, aptly, that fool is also a horse's ass.

"I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," Brown said.


I guess I have to agree. He's damn good at making a fool of himself. And now we see he's as good at screwing the country as he did New Orleans.



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