Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Michael Brown: Poster Boy For All That's Wrong With Bush Administration

It is difficult to tell which famous catch-phrase associated with George W. Bush is more applicable to Michael Brown's performance before the Republican congressional committee today – but we know it's either "mission accomplished" or "Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job."

Clearly, Brownie's mission in today's hearing was to blame Democratic leaders in Louisiana for shoddy
Hurricane Katrina response, while absorbing nothing for himself, FEMA or the Bush Administration. Where most Americans would have excepted to see considerable contrition from the point person behind the grotesquely incompetence federal government response to Katrina, they saw the soulless arrogance that is the hallmark of this administration and this president.

The discredited former FEMA director clearly accomplished what Bush wanted him to do – whether or not anyone out there actually believes it.

The Yahoo News headline this afternoon says it all: "Ex-FEMA Director Brown Blames Others." Brown spent most of his time before the almost-exclusively Republican panel, blaming Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and impoverished New Orleans residents who could not simply load up the Range Rover and leave town.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," said Brown, in the moment that typifies the hypocrisy of a Republican party that preaches responsibility but fails at every turn to place blame on themselves.

"I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," Brown said.

Even Republicans – who seldom stray from their talking points or marching orders – don't buy the argument that Brown was blameless or, for that matter, even remotely qualified for the head job at FEMA.

"I'm happy you left," said Congressman Christopher Shays, R-Conn. "That kind of look in the lights like a deer tells me you weren't capable of doing that job."

Said Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss.: "The disconnect was, people thought there was some federal expertise out there. There wasn't. Not from you."

But the central tenet of Brown's testimony – that the fault for how badly things went originated within Louisiana's borders – was especially galling to Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. "I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans," Jefferson sternly said to Brown.

One of the testiest exchanges took place between Brown and Shays, when a defensive Brown implied that expectations on him and FEMA were unreasonable.

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

"What I wanted you to do is do your job and coordinate," Shays responded.

Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas told Brown: "I don't know how you can sleep at night. You lost the battle."

While it is gratifying to see Republicans straying from the ranch long enough to deliver an honest assessment of Brown's performance and his excuses, Brown remains the poster boy for why the Bush administration is despised throughout the world and why most Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

The White House's overall strategy remains clear: When in doubt, shift the blame to others. If that doesn't work, smear them and their family. If the target's wife happens to be a covert CIA agent, expose her identity.

Joining us in wondering if the Bush administration itself is one of the 150 disasters cited by Brown in his testimony today, was Denise Bottcher, Governor Blanco's press secretary.

"Mike Brown wasn't engaged then, and he surely isn't now," said Bottcher. "He should have been watching CNN instead of the Disney Channel."

Stockton Lawyer John F. Cruikshank III contributed to this report.