Sunday, September 04, 2005


FEMA Director Brown "Fired"

Well, not exactly -- but for all intents and purposes, Michael Brown is toast. After being the face of the feds' flawed first days of response to the Katrina aftermath, Brown was nowhere to be seen on the Sunday morning talk shows (though he popped up in briefings during the day).

Instead, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff stepped up to be the media pinata. Of course, defending the indefensible is a tough job, so he looked somewhat pathetic. He had no real reply to questions such as Tim Russert's, "How could the president be so misinformed [on the likelihood of the levees breaking after a hurricane]?" A question on whether "you or anyone who reports to you contemplating resignation" was ducked with a, "After the crisis is over, assessments will be made, blah blah blah."

However, that it was Chertoff being the person to take the hit for the administration is about all the proof one needs that Brown's eventual fate in his current job is likely to be the same as his previous private sector spot.

By the way, try to catch "Meet The Press" if MSNBC/CNBC rebroadcasts it later this evening/overnight. The transcript can't truly capture the emotional impact of Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish. His initial comments, where it is clear that he is referring to notes, are devastating in their criticisms of FEMA:

Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel." Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.
But, at the end, Broussard breaks down on television after telling the story of the death of the mother of one of his emergency management workers: "Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody." After interviewing hundreds of polished journalists and politicians on his show, getting fairly scripted responses, Russert couldn't deal with the real-time raw, non-spinning human emotion that Broussard was presenting. It must have been a major shock -- he quickly moved on to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

UPDATE: Notwithstanding the title of this post, Michael Brown is still, technically, the head of FEMA. To address that situation, I want to add my name officially to the list of people who say that he should be gone now, like immediately -- yesterday, if not before. The blogosphere list already includes Michelle Malkin, Andrew Sullivan, Brendan Loy (great hurricane post's by the way -- his Notre Dame affiliation aside), Kevin Drum and, I would imagine, just about anyone with any degree of sense. Lest one forget, the above linked Boston Herald article comes from a right-leaning paper.

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