Michael Brown, the widely criticized former head of FEMA, is back in the news cycle again. Brown first came to the nation's attention as the bureaucrat who almost single-handedly bungled the Bush administration's response to Katrina the Storm. As presidential spokesman Scott McClellan put it, "Sure, there might have been some other mild bungling committed by other un-named officials, but we're talking really minor bungling, like Suzie Adams, the presidential admin assistant who was supposed to call the president if any levees broke while he was trying his darndest to finish his vacation. Well, it just so happens that Suzie had a nasty cold when the situation worsened. Really nasty cough she had. Kind of a hacking cough. You want to stay in bed with a cough like that. Michael Brown had no such excuse. He's just a bungler."

Lately it had seemed as though Brown's star was on the rise. The month began with the emergence of a video which showed a large and in-charge FEMA director urgently briefing a slack-jawed George Bush and Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff about the impending disaster. Ha! Who's the bungler now? Brown seemed to be vindicated, and he took to the news-chat circuit to begin the restoration of his reputation.

Not so fast, buster. The all-Republican house panel investigating Katrina the Storm has just released a supplemental report which shows that Brown was every bit the bungling boob that had been suspected all along. Maybe even a criminally negligent bungling boob. He had ignored the National Response Plan of 2004, thereby depriving the country of  "an opportunity to determine whether the NRP worked." And it might have! Worse yet,

...the House reported that Brown "virtually boasted" that he avoided communicating with Chertoff -- then in office about six months -- "and called directly on the White House for assistance instead." Brown opposed or never advised the new secretary to take steps under the response plan, such as declaring an "incident of national significance," activating a Catastrophic Incident Annex to speed federal aid, convening an expert Interagency Incident Management Group or naming a principal federal officer in charge, the report said.

"Damn, am I guilty or what," Brown said this morning in a response to the charges. "I mean, the first thing you learn in the federal government is to stick to your chain of command, and like a fool I just skip right over my first level supervisor like he's some sort of shmuck. I am so sorry. I guess that Skeletor and Bush decided to ignore me as an object lesson. And boy, did I ever need one."

"As for the rest of the allegations, what can I say? Guilty as charged. I totally forgot about activating the Catastrophic Incident Annex. Just slipped my mind. And I know this is going to sound foolish, but for some reason I thought 'Category 5 hurricane headed towards New Orleans' sounded more impressive than 'incident of national significance'. But give me a break on the Interagency Incident Management Group meeting. All our good meeting rooms are booked up weeks in advance. And just try to get some of these muckety-mucks on the phone on a Friday afternoon."

 

2005, Mark Hoback