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The Chutzpah of Brownie

Remember Michael Brown, the astonishingly incompetent head of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina, a man whose biggest job prior to that was running an organization for owners of Arabian horses? He’s showing some pretty extraordinary chutzpah by accusing Obama of politicizing Hurricane Sandy by reacting too quickly.

Today, we decided to check in with a local expert on natural disasters who also has a perspective on potential political ramifications of Sandy: Michael Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who’s now a local radio host. He feels Obama may have jumped the gun with his first announcement about the storm, which is expected to hit the East Coast tonight…

Holding a press conference at FEMA yesterday might have been a bit premature, given that the most serious impacts of the storm are not expected until later today, he feels.

“Here’s my concern,” Brown says. “People in the northeast are already beginning to blow it off…. [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg has shut down the subway…[launched] evacuations…. I don’t object…they should be doing all of that. But in the meantime, various news commentators…[and others] in New York are shrugging their shoulders, saying, ‘What’s this all about?’ It’s premature [when] the brunt of the storm won’t happen until later this afternoon.” …

“One thing he’s gonna be asked is, why did he jump on this so quickly and go back to D.C. so quickly when in…Benghazi, he went to Las Vegas?” Brown says. “Why was this so quick?… At some point, somebody’s going to ask that question…. This is like the inverse of Benghazi.”

If he was trying to make himself look like an ass — heckuva job, Brownie.

Comments

  1. Mr Ed says

    When you have no food or water, it is dark and getting cold I’m not sure what qualifies as “too quickly”.

  2. scienceavenger says

    “What was I supposed to do?” – whined Brownie at his congressional hearing. That pretty much says it all.

  3. raven says

    I saw that. One of the dumbest people Bush appointed. It’s almost like his real job was to make FEMA look bad.

  4. some bastard on the net says

    “I mean, why in the world would you worry about impending devastation before it actually happens? Really, preparing for a natural disaster before the disaster strikes is just plain silly, amirite?”

    /Brownstain

  5. kermit. says

    Ah, yes. Tens of millions of people in the path of what forecasters knew would be one of the top handful of destructive storms in US history, and Brownie thinks “It’s premature [when] the brunt of the storm won’t happen until later this afternoon”.

    Because waiting till the last minute worked out so well in New Orleans. Apparently, not only did Brown learn nothing of emergency management, he seems to be oblivious to how he is coming across in the press.

  6. says

    Can’t let the plebes get disaster relief quickly. You see, first you’ve got to make sure they take their knocks, then once they’re desperate they’ve got to come crawling to you for help. After you make a show of considering it, making it clear who is the one with the power, you then magnanimously do the bare minimum you can get away with, making sure to spread those disaster funds around some campaign donors for “rebuilding”.

  7. says

    The whole Benghazi comparison is such an odd remark. What would have Obama having acted ‘faster’ after the incident have changed? And how are the two things even remotely connected? Is Mr.Brown saying that Obama should have just waited for it to hit and then call Sandy a terrorist?
    <blockquote. It’s premature [when] the brunt of the storm won’t happen until later this afternoon
    That actually explains a lot about how Katrina went down. Let’s wait until it’s an absolute state of emergency before we even acknowledge that there’s a problem

  8. F says

    It is a complete give-away that the R are trying to shoot down Obama with wild shots. They are politicizing everything. Project much? Could you be any more obvious, Brown.

    Yeah, I remember him from the FEMA which Bush destroyed with his ridiculous appointments.

    But in the meantime, various news commentators…[and others] in New York are shrugging their shoulders, saying, ‘What’s this all about?’ It’s premature [when] the brunt of the storm won’t happen until later this afternoon.” …

    How stupid are you, really, Brown and ‘various commentators’? Christ, no wonder they don’t “get” climate change – they can’t grasp a hurricane coming straight for the coast, never mid the two other weather systems which were making it worse. You know, it just stopped raining here in Ohio. These morons would stare right down a rifle barrel while the trigger is pulled, maintaining a wait-and-see attitude. You can’t know what will happen!

  9. F says

    I’m not sure what qualifies as “too quickly”.

    Less than five business days after the fact. Anything in there would be too soon.

  10. Michael Heath says

    FEMA didn’t fail merely because it’s operational head Michael Brown was not capable of operational management. They primarily failed because of a new organizational design from the Bush White House which starved FEMA of resources and power.

    Mr. Brown’s an easy target because of his lack of expertise doing the Arabian horse gig, but the real failure here started at the very top. The challenge here is it just doesn’t make for a good soundbite because you have to dig into to understand how Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and President Bush failed FEMA. And while Brown was obviously in over his head, to the point that during Katrina he didn’t even realize he was in over his head, a great example of not knowing what he didn’t know; the fact is Brown lobbied hard prior to Katrina for the type of proactive resources FEMA needed which went ignored by his boss and his boss’ boss.

    They ignored him because they were focused almost singularly at tying al Qaeda to Hussein and other terror-related activities, though not those needed by FEMA to react to a successful terror threat. That’s why the organizational design was so stupid and an example of what happens when we deny reality. In this case Republicans denied the threat of climate change, which weakened FEMA in spite of the fact scientists are predicting and insurance companies are reporting an increase in damage due to severe weather threats. They instead viewed the singular threat as Muslim terrorism and designed an organization accordingly.

  11. MikeMa says

    Brown was (is) surely an incompetent ass. But he wasn’t an ass alone in the Bush fiefdom. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Yoo and others have certainly rallied to Brown’s level.

    And why was Brown quibbling about being half a day early? He was late by most of a week in New Orleans. Obama’s FEMA was admirably ahead of the disaster. Surely that is a plus to sane humans.

    I believe Brown hasn’t the wits to have orchestrated this attack on his own power. The Benghazi reference certainly points to a GOP funded anti-Obama talking point smear campaign. Find a topic where the current administration can be easily tarred and connect every other talking point to it. Brown could hardly be expected to find Benghazi on a map let alone connect a hurricane response to it on his own.

  12. unnullifier says

    Anyone else think it’s just more of the *cue sinister voice and music* “There are a lot of questions about Benghazi; unanswered questions about Benghazi. Questions–about Benghazi–we assume Americans want to know. Why is the president not answering our questions about Benghazi? Benghazi.” shtick?

    I think in this case Brown is using Sandy clumsily as an incidental point to try once again to bring the focus back around to Benghazi and to make spoken and unspoken accusations about the President’s handling of that situation. It shows that once again, the extremists that dominate the right are so focused on taking down Obama by any means necessary that to them, a disaster of this scale and the millions affected by it are just political pawns on the board to be played.

  13. says

    [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg has shut down the subway…[launched] evacuations…. I don’t object…they should be doing all of that. But in the meantime, various news commentators…[and others] in New York are shrugging their shoulders…

    Right…he admits the elected officials — you know, the ones who actually have responsibilities — are doing the right thing, but then he says the opinions of COMMENTATORS matter more? I guess that’s how he compensates for a Republican GOVERNOR supporting Obama.

    What a prize (Arabian) horse’s ass.

  14. says

    [FEMA] primarily failed because of a new organizational design from the Bush White House which starved FEMA of resources and power.

    More specifically, FEMA was rolled up under the brand-new DHS, whose main priority was to politicize issues of terrorism and airplane security. So you have a disaster recovery agency being annexed onto a security/law enforcement/border control super-agency that doesn’t give a shit about non-essential soft targets getting hit by natural disasters.

    But that doesn’t relieve Brownie of any blame here: he was still an ignorant, uncaring stooge (did he ever lobby his bosses for more resources, or object to the re-org?), and now he’s proven he hasn’t learned shit from his past mega-failures.

  15. slc1 says

    Incidentally, Mayor Bloomberg endorsed Obama this morning, in part because of his response to hurricane Sandy.

  16. says

    Michael Heath:

    I know that you don’t make a habit of making unsubstantiated claims but googlin’ for information about how hard Michael Brown tried to do his job is not showing any promising results. Do you have a link?

    In the event, Brown was completely unqualified for the job. Both he and Bushco knew it. They didn’t put him in that positions to do anything positive. If he had a shred of personal integrity he would have refused the job and he most certainly would have resigned without being forced to do so. That he did neither of those things speaks volumes about his honesty.

  17. says

    Incidentally, Mayor Bloomberg endorsed Obama this morning…

    But…SOLYNDRA! PLANNED PARENTHOOD! BENGHAZI!11!!ELEVENTY-ONE!! WHAT ABOUT JEREMIAH WRIGHT?!!! IS NO ONE THINKING OF THE CHILDREN??!!!

  18. says

    I think you’re all misunderstanding this criticism. It seems obvious to me that what he meant was that Obama reacted too quickly for them to accuse him of acting too slowly. Obviously that’s a problem.

  19. Doug Little says

    Well to be fair, any reaction on the part of Obama would be too quick given his reaction time after Katrina.

  20. lofgren says

    I’ve never heard that Brown “lobbied hard” for additional resources for FEMA, only that he requested them – which, let’s be frank, to a certain class of right-wingers, is pretty much the entire job of running a federal agency, because as far as they are concerned all federal agencies do is consume massive amounts of money without ever accomplishing anything. When Brown got the job, he probably went to his conservative buddies and asked what exactly was entailed in running a disaster relief organization, and they probably told him, “Meh, it’s the federal government. Nobody expects you to actually accomplish anything. Just whine a lot about how little money you have and everything should be fine.”

  21. F says

    Brown would not have needed to request anything if FEMA had been simply left alone. It was in pretty damned fine order until Bush came into office.

    “Meh, it’s the federal government. Nobody expects you to actually accomplish anything. Just whine a lot about how little money you have and everything should be fine.”

    The classic inside job/collusion, just like the Cold War. Waste money, don’t actually do anything effective, then ask for more money. Meanwhile, we politicians will continue to complain about big government, bureaucracy, and waste as we shunt money where it isn’t needed and dismantle effective agencies, then blame it on the other party.

  22. wscott says

    It’s almost like his real job was to make FEMA look bad.

    Forget the almost. The GOP has been trying to get rid of FEMA since Reagan. Bush’s first FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh was brought on with the mission of making the case for shutting FEMA down. But once he saw what FEMA actually did, he got religion and started pushing back. When Bush decided to bury FEMA under the new DHS, Allbaugh announced his retirement, leaving then-deputy director Brownie in charge. (I don’t have a cite for that handy, but there were several news articles on it at the time.)

    I’m not sure what qualifies as “too quickly”.

    He means: before the state asks for help. Believe it or not, this was actually hotly debated in the emergency management biz (where I work). FEMA is organized around the basic principle that “all disasters are local” and the federal government is there to provide support to state/local government. Which generally works fine, until you get to a Katrina-scale disaster where state/local government is essentially a casualty – by the time New Orleans sorted themselves out enough to even know what help they needed, it was too late. So post-Brownie, FEMA began re-tooling to “lean forward” and begin moving resources before asked. Seems obvious in hindsight, but there’s a significant financial cost in moving resources that may not be needed, and before Katrina there wasn’t the political will to pay that bill.

    None of which makes Brownie any less of a clueless tool.

    the fact is Brown lobbied hard prior to Katrina for the type of proactive resources FEMA needed which went ignored by his boss and his boss’ boss.

    I think that’s a bit generous. He may have made some obligatory noises about needing more money, but as I recall it was pretty half-hearted. After all, he saw what happened to Allbaugh. But I don’t have a cite for that either.

    Brown was (is) surely an incompetent ass. But he wasn’t an ass alone in the Bush fiefdom.

    No need to limit it to the Federal government – in Katrina there was plenty of incompetence at the state & local level too.

  23. says

    You tell ‘em Brownie. A real FEMA director would show up several days later and declare everything to be a-okay, completely oblivious to the 30,000 refugees holed up in a nearby stadium without food and water.

  24. says

    “Forget the almost. The GOP has been trying to get rid of FEMA since Reagan.”

    This is something that I really don’t understand. The evidence is quite clear that Republicans have a serious hate-on for FEMA, but I have no idea why. No one but the most hardcore libertarian should dispute that the federal government should play a major role in disaster relief, especially for disasters that completely overwhelm state resources. The only disagreement should be over the details. The Republican attempts to destroy FEMA through negligence make little sense aside from their general misanthropy.

  25. says

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/storm-response-earns-obama-praise-amid-the-elections-deadlock-drama/

    Likely voters of all political stripes give broadly positive ratings to Barack Obama’s response to the devastating storm that smashed the East Coast this week. ….in interviews conducted last night, 78 percent rate Obama’s response to the hurricane positively (as excellent or good), while just 8 percent see it negatively. Romney, who naturally has had a far less prominent role in this issue, is rated positively for his response to the hurricane by 44 percent, negatively by 21 percent, with many more, 35 percent, expressing no opinion.

    That sound you just heard was Romney tearing out his carefully dyed hair.

  26. dingojack says

    MikeMa – “Brown could hardly be expected to find Benghazi on a map let alone connect a hurricane response to it on his own”.

    One can almost hear Brownie asking his GOP ghost-writers as they handed him the script: ‘Who is this Ben Ghazi guy anyway?’

    Dingo

  27. says

    So it’s, like, a Bad Thing to prepare for an impending natural disaster before it happens (Obama), but totally okay to wait for weeks while people are dying before bringing in (inadequate) help (“Brownie”). Huh. Funny, I thought it was the other way ’round, you know, being prepared ahead of time for, and responding as soon as possible to natural disasters with needed supplies being a Good Thing.

  28. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    @35:
    Is there some way someone on the Right could twist this as:
    Obama responded far too quickly for a true American (like Michael Brown). He didn’t take the time to assess the situation and get all his facts straight. He rushed in there unprepared. No real American would do that. Certainly not the sitting American President. He really isn’t American! The Birthers were right!

  29. says

    “‘Who is this Ben Ghazi guy anyway?’

    Dingo”

    He was the guy killed by Kevin Tighe’s character at the end of “Roadhouse”, Patrick Swayze’s “Chuck Norris” vehicle.

  30. says

    The evidence is quite clear that Republicans have a serious hate-on for FEMA, but I have no idea why. No one but the most hardcore libertarian should dispute that the federal government should play a major role in disaster relief, especially for disasters that completely overwhelm state resources.

    And today’s Republican Party is dominated by hard-core libertarians. Remember, their VP candidate is an overt Randroid, and their nominee for President is a one-percenter (actually more of a .0001-percenter) who wants government to serve the rich and help them shaft everyone else.

    What’s worse than Republicans being inconsistent? Republicans being consistent.

  31. says

    Raging Bee “More serious reply: So who’s better at reaching across the aisle again?”
    Well, Obama’s just does pretends to do it to get votes, while Republicans really, actually, genuinely and in good-faith do it because they’re Patriots®.

    ambulocetacean “So Romney wants to privatise FEMA? How would that work?”
    *Knock at door* “FEMA rescue!” [hands customer a complimentary FEMA-branded rubber ducky]
    “Oh, thank goodness you’re here!”
    “No problem, ma’am. We’re here to help. Do you have your FEMA Platinum membership card handy?”
    “…No?”
    “That’s fine, ma’am. Do you have a FEMA Gold membership card? That guarantees next week rescue or your money back.”
    “…No?”
    “Oh. Well, the Bronze card should, service availability pending, guarantee help between the hours of eight to four on…the closest appointment I have free isn’t until January. Is that okay?”
    “I don’t have a card.”
    “Oh. Here’s an application form. Be sure to mail it in as soon as mail service is restored and, in six-to-eight weeks we’ll be glad to help…although…drowning is a pre pre-existing condition…” [takes back form and rubber ducky] “Good day, ma’am. And God Bless the Free Market.”

    Raging Bee “What’s worse than Republicans being inconsistent? Republicans being consistent.”
    Oh, please! Everybody knows that Big Government can’t work. Small Goverment works. It’s prompt, effective, efficient and doesn’t worry about poor people.

  32. pipenta says

    Do you know the recipe for “Great-Job Brownies”?

    It is exactly the same as the brownie recipe on the Baker’s Chocolate package, only you swap out the chocolate for pure goddamn shit.

  33. pipenta says

    p.s. For real authenticity, you might want to use horse shit, preferably from very expensive horses.

  34. wscott says

    This is something that I really don’t understand. The evidence is quite clear that Republicans have a serious hate-on for FEMA, but I have no idea why.

    I’ve been mystified by this myself for decades. Especially since FEMA is possibly the only Federal agency whose sole purpose is to support states when they have exceeded their capabilities, and can generally only do at the express request of a governor, you’d think the States Rights crowd would love them. But I think implying that states might actually need help sometimes conflicts with the dogma that States Can Do Everything Better.

    There are other conservative sacred cows that FEMA seems to challenge by its very existence, ie – Government handouts are evil and make people dependant on more handouts, and anything that smells like charity is best left to the private sector. Plus at this point we have decades of experience that FEMA only seems to work well under Democratic Presidents (James Lee Witt under Clinton, Craig Fugate under Obama), and that’s just embarrassing. Tho again, the common denominator is that Witt & Fugate were both State Emergency Management Directors, which the GOP should love if they were consistent. (I know, that’s crazy talk.)

    Do you know the recipe for “Great-Job Brownies”?

    Pipenta, I am SO stealing that!

  35. puppygod says

    @32 Area Man

    This is something that I really don’t understand. The evidence is quite clear that Republicans have a serious hate-on for FEMA, but I have no idea why.

    I can’t help but wonder whether religiosity plays any role here. Maybe, after years of repeating that natural disasters are punishment sent by god they really bought into that narration. Maybe deep within, on the most visceral level they think (or rather feel) that taking actions against natural disaster is taking action against god.

    Not that they ever admit that in public.

  36. says

    “And today’s Republican Party is dominated by hard-core libertarians.”

    I don’t know about that. Republicans make heavy use of libertarian-ish rhetoric when it suits them, but are very quick to drop it when it comes to the government doing things they like, especially if it involves the death and suffering of other people. It should not be too difficult for them to rationalize supporting FEMA, other than the fact that its purpose is benign.

  37. says

    “I’ve been mystified by this myself for decades. Especially since FEMA is possibly the only Federal agency whose sole purpose is to support states when they have exceeded their capabilities, and can generally only do at the express request of a governor, you’d think the States Rights crowd would love them.”

    First of all, looking for any sort of consistency in the Wingnuttsphere mindset is a fool’s errand.

    The real reason for their hatred of FEMA is that it HELPS people that they think should suffer. That’s really all it is, garden variety childishness. Oh, and they bleat the loudest when THEIR property and lives are threatened by disaster.

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