Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Half-Baked Brownie

I thought about writing about Anna Nicole Smith and her impending visit to the US Supreme Court today, mainly because the situation would have allowed me to use the title: Ms. Smith Goes to Washington…(my deepest and sincerest apologies to Jimmy Stewart)

Decorum and knowledge won out though and I decided to write about something else…lucky you.

Michael Brown was in Washington DC yesterday, defending his and FEMA’s actions following Hurricane Katrina. Naturally, for someone as talented (cough –cough) and knowledgeable (cough-cough) as ‘Brownie’ played a rousing rendition of The Blame Game, admitting few errors of his own and laying most of the blame for the debacle of early relief efforts on local officials in Louisiana.

His testimony can best be described as…






No, I got it...his testimony was that of a 5 year old.

Brownie, as I will now be calling him, stated several times that the federal government is not "a first responder" to such disasters and waved off any suggestions that the federal government should assist with gasoline supplies for mass evacuations.

(I’m sorry, what? If you look at FEMA’s website it states “Helping People Before, During and After Disasters.” They even have a section of their website devoted to their first responders unit. The site states that the agency is tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disasters. Apparently Brownie cannot read)

At another point in his testimony, Brownie stated that FEMA should end its practice of providing ice for disaster evacuees. (I… I don’t know what to say to that, I just, I. …Schmuck…)

Brownie laid much of the blame on Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, (who, it should be noted, are both Democrats – but this isn’t a partisan issue, right?) saying his "biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday [two days before the storm roared ashore] that Louisiana was dysfunctional." (Two words Brownie – Glass Houses…)

But Brown's attempt to shift blame was met with derision from Republicans and Democrats alike on the Republican-controlled House panel investigating the federal, state and local responses (or lack thereof) to the hurricane. And met with mockery from pundits, bloggers (like me) late-night talk show hosts and, well, anyone with a brain.

"I very strongly personally (huh?) regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off." (Yeah, well, shoving oats into their mouths, giving them a sugar cube and smacking their rumps probably wasn't the best way to do it.)

After Brownie was done blaming local and state officials, he decided to blame his bosses and the Federal government. He presented a picture of a federal disaster response system that had been hindered in recent years by funding shortfalls and a demoralized staff. He continued to state that he had privately warned administration officials well in advance of the hurricane that the agency was dangerously overstretched, but, The Department of Homeland Security (New Slogan: Now with Brighter and Richer Color in the Terror Alert Level Chart), FEMA's parent agency, rebuffed his efforts to fund improvements in the agency’s capabilities in New Orleans.

(These capabilities were identified as necessary in an exercise conducted about a year ago that simulated in quite a foreboding way, a scenario eerily prophetic of Katrina: that is, a catastrophic hurricane slamming into New Orleans that would breach the city's levees and flood many parishes.)

Brownie also stated that FEMA had lost 500 staff positions in recent years. And he said that the Homeland Security Department had diverted $30 million from money appropriated this year for FEMA and redirected it to other agencies. Homeland Security is unique among Cabinet departments in possessing authority to redirect congressional appropriations.

(Brownie's criticism of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's stewardship of his department was a rare departure in an administration that, for the most part, avoids public criticism of one official by another – so you know that Brownie is trying to distance himself from the rest of the Bush-League Administration.)

Another fascinating tidbit from the hearing? Brown's assertion that a late evacuation order placed lives at risk provoked a testy exchange with Mississippi Rep. Christopher Shays, who demanded to know what steps Brown took to bring additional resources to bear to assist the evacuation."So I guess you want me to be this superhero that is going to step in there and suddenly take everybody out of New Orleans," Brown said."No, what I wanted you to do was do your job of coordinating. And I want to know what you did to coordinate," Shays said.

After that, (with what I think was the best quote from one of the Representatives), Rep. Shay’s said: "That's why I'm happy you left, because that kind of, you know, look in the lights like a deer, tells me that you weren't capable to do the job.”

Evidently, he was not. And still isn’t. But, (and for this you gotta love politics) Brownie told lawmakers he is still being paid as a consultant to help FEMA assess what went wrong.

Ooookkkaaayyyyy. The person who dropped the ball, became the face of the government’s dropping of the ball, who was forced to resign, who was then brought to Washington DC and bad-mouthed the federal government and his own boss to US Congressmen, is still getting paid by FEMA… and probably at a higher rate than before…



Anonymous said...

Once again, you are showing an immaturity about conservatives and Republicans that are pathetic.

FEMA is meant to be an agency that is supposed to assist local and state governments, they are NOT to be the first responder...regardless
of what the website says.

jstoner said...

Half-baked? I think Brown is fully baked...but with a little surprise in side.

Hashbrownies anyone?