“Until you have been there, you don’t realize it is the middle of a hurricane.”
— former FEMA director Mike Brown
Well… duh-uh! Perhaps that’s why FEMA should be run by people who’ve actually been there before, huh?
I can’t help but find Mike Brown’s very public defense of himself as muddled and confused as the appointment that put him in the eye of the hurricane in the first place. To claim that he resigned because he didn’t “want to be a distraction”… and then to give a series of defensive, high profile interviews flinging blame at everyone except the guy who hired him, is beyond ironic… it is absurd. The simple fact is, as FEMA director, Brown was in over his head, and he’d probably serve himself better by staying as silent and anonymous as the hundreds of corpses that drowned with him.
Surely, Brown is more than justified in claiming that he has been made a scapegoat. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff scapegoated him. The media scapegoated him. Hell… I scapegoated him. But that’s not to say that the scapegoating wasn’t deserved, nor that it didn’t serve the useful purpose of illuminating the cronyism and incompetence endemic in the Bush administration.
And how does Brown respond to his scapegoat status? By trying to scapegoat Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state and local officials.
He focused much of his criticism on Governor Blanco, contrasting what he described as her confused response with far more agile mobilizations in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in Florida during last year’s hurricanes.
But Mr. Brown’s account, in which he described making “a blur of calls” all week to Mr. Chertoff, Mr. Card and Mr. Hagin, suggested that Mr. Bush, or at least his top aides, were informed early and repeatedly by the top federal official at the scene that state and local authorities were overwhelmed and that the overall response was going badly.
Yeah, and neither Mississippi, Alabama nor Florida had their largest city totally wiped off the map, destroying much of its emergency infrastructure, and creating a half million refugees. State and local authorities were overwhelmed? No shit, Sherlock! Of course they were overwhelmed… they were wiped out by a fucking hurricane! That’s the whole reason we created FEMA in the first place… to provide a rapid and coordinated federal response to regional emergencies… a task the agency, under Brown, failed utterly.
But most absurd is Brown’s ridiculous insistence that the White House be held blameless for FEMA’s disastrous disaster response, an assertion directly contradicted by his own account of the chaos and confusion between him, Chertoff and White House staff. No doubt Brown was promoted more for his loyalty than his competence, but his unswerving defense of the incompetent who hired him suggests that his presidential sobriquet, “Brownie”, was derived more from the color of his nose than his surname. Moreover, Brown’s own bemoaning of the lack of resources at his disposal is a damning indictment not only of a failed presidency, but of a failed ideology that seeks to cut government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Well, now we all know what Grover Nordquist’s bathtub looks like: it is New Orleans under 20 feet of water… raw sewage and bloated corpses floating through the streets.
Brown intends to clear his name, but in doing so sets forth a narrative that confirms his critics’ deepest suspicions. He was the wrong man for the wrong job, appointed for all the wrong reasons. But what offends me most by his feeble effort to defend his reputation, is that he never apologizes — not for his poor performance, for I’m sure he did his best — but for taking the job in the first place. Until you have been there, you don’t realize it is the middle of a hurricane. The American people deserved a FEMA director who had been there before, and who knew a disaster when he stood in the middle of one… not three or four days after the fact.
Michael Brown was not that man.
[Cross-posted at Daily Kos]