Friday, September 09, 2005


Notes on A GOP Affirmative Action Baby

Black leaders have been raising the wrong "race" issue. Their argument has been that the complexion of the stranded in New Orleans had something to do with the slowness of the federal response. Rev. Al Sharpton declared: If we were not dealing with black people and poor people, we would not be dealing with this snail's pace reaction."

However, given the various fingerpointing between local, state and federal officials, it may be hard to make the case that the main dereliction of responsibilty in this tragedy is because the white-run federal government doesn't care about the poor blacks of New Orleans.

Instead of asking, "How would residents have been treated if they were white?" a better query might be, "How would FEMA Director Michael Brown be perceived if he were black?"

And by black, I don't mean if he were
this guy.

I mean, consider what could be said of a hypothetical "black" FEMA Director Michael Brown with a
professional background that can be described, at best as "thin":

When Brown left the [International Arabian Horse Association] four years ago, he was, among other things, a failed former lawyer--a man with a 20-year-old degree from a semi-accredited law school who hadn't attempted to practice law in a serious way in nearly 15 years and who had just been forced out of his job in the wake of charges of impropriety. At this point in his life, returning to his long-abandoned legal career would have been very difficult in the competitive Colorado legal market. Yet, within months of leaving the IAHA, he was handed one of the top legal positions in the entire federal government: general counsel for a major federal agency. A year later, he was made its number-two official, and, a year after that, Bush appointed him director of FEMA.

Yes, such a man would be called -- as Brown has -- a beneficiary of political patronage, rescued from professional oblivion by ex-FEMA director and Bush 2000 campaign manager Joe Albaugh.

Given the Katrina aftermath, such a man might be called -- as Brown has -- unqualified and incompetent.

But, beyond that, the black Michael Brown would be called an affirmative action hire, a beneficiary of racial preferences. It would be inferred that standards were lowered -- to an obviously dangerous degree. As Larry Elder reasonably asks, "[W]hat of doctors, mechanics, engineers, and other critical life-and-death jobs filled by those 'boosted' via lessened standards?"

Indeed, what of "other critical life-and-death jobs filled by those 'boosted' via lessened standards"? Critical, like At the college level, defenders of racial affirmative action point to "legacy students" -- the sometimes less-talented offspring of alumni who nonetheless get set-aside slots -- as affirmative action for the privileged.

Well, the sort of evident patronage as represented by Michael Brown is not necessarily a bad system -- except when someone ends up in a position to which they are so unqualified that the results could be, well, disastrous.

Yes, the political world is different than the private sector with different rules and mores. Still, when an individual this unqualified is so obviously over his head, it is impossible to defend either his current employment or the fact that he was placed in such a potentially serious position in the first place.

Standards? Yeah, right. Sure, Republicans must believe in standards, right?

Michael Brown's continued employment by this administration is an insult to anyone who has ever believed in such notions as responsibility and accountability. Defenders of racial preferences should point to Michael Brown as the poster child for white-boy affirmative action. If George W. Bush decides to keep Michael Brown on, well, he has made a "legacy admission" of a different sort.

UPDATE: No no, no! Summoning Brown back to Washington and removing him from the hands-on (such as it was) relief effort doesn't count. The guy doesn't get to sit at a desk and collect his nice government salary. He needs to be totally gone -- days ago.

However, given what is known about the Bush administration, one could say that his fate has been sealed. Note two passages in Saturday's Washington Post. First:

The decision to sideline Brown yesterday was an implicit rebuke of a top aide by Bush, who rarely fires or publicly disciplines lieutenants as long as they are loyal.

This determined mutual loyalty has been noticed by friends and foes alike as a signature trait of the administration. Well, this comment from Brown on his troubles may seal the deal (emphasis added):

He angrily denied padding his résumé, blaming mistakes on the White House and on FEMA for misrepresenting his background, and he bristled at all the attacks on his handling of the hurricane: "I'm anxious to get back to D.C. to correct all the inaccuracies and lies."

Oops! Sorry, Brownie, that's not how the game is played!! Whatever happens, you don't blame the White House for your troubles. You have now laid the predicate to an inevitable "for cause" -- by the rules of this particular team -- permanent separation.

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