Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Passing the Buck

Ex-FEMA Chief Michael Brown had his day in court, or, more accurately, in front of the House committee investigating the Katrina response. While he shouldered some of the blame for the mismanagement of the disaster, he took the opportunity to point his finger at the White House as well as the local and state governments in Louisiana.

Fair enough. I never bought the White House’s “let’s not play the blame game” line of reasoning, so if Brown wants to name names and explain how other people screwed up, let’s hear him out. If Brown thinks local government in Louisiana deserves more blame than it’s getting, let him make his case. We on the left shouldn’t fuss about getting to the bottom of things only when we expect to find a high level Bush appointee down there. That looks more like a witch hunt than an investigation.

Here’s Brown on the White House’s role in the disaster:

"I told them we needed help," Brown told a special House committee charged by the Republican leadership with investigating the government's handling of the monster storm.

Brown said he asked the White House for help in persuading Blanco and Nagin "to order a mandatory evacuation."

But Brown also blamed the Department of Homeland Security, and indirectly, the Bush administration, for what he said was FEMA's emaciated state. His agency, he said, has suffered from budget cuts and a shortage of qualified personnel since it was subsumed within the gigantic department.

The lack of funding for FEMA, Brown said, kept it from buying and pre-positioning better equipment that would have eased communication problems during the disaster.

"We put that money in our budget request and it was removed by the Department of Homeland Security" before the budget was finalized, Brown said.
This is good information to have on the record, but some of Brown’s other comments strike me as bogus, like this one regarding the tension between the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans:

"I very strongly personally 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 it off," he said.
I’m sorry, but Bush insisted on rolling up every lose federal agency into the leviathan that is The Department of Homeland Security, and now that super agency can’t resolve local political standoffs? What exactly is the point of Homeland Security then, besides of course shaving down the budgets of formerly independent agencies to divert money to the war effort?

So either A) Brown is a completely inept idiot, or B) Homeland Security isn’t capable of doing what it’s supposed to, or C) Both of the above. Take your pick.

--Matthew McCoy