Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!"

Josh Marshall is interested in "Brownie's" lies on Capitol Hill yesterday, but I suspect most of them will end up being of the "he said/she said" variety, or petty disagreements over timeline issues. I have to admit, I'm more interested in Brown's mendacity.

Pay attention to what he says, not whether or not the facts can be verified, and you see a man in charge of FEMA who apparently saw his job as being Chicken Little: the sky was falling, but he couldn't get anyone to listen:

Michael D. Brown, who stepped down as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the government's much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina, told a Congressional committee on Tuesday that he had warned the White House of impending disaster several days before the storm struck.

Asked when the White House became aware that a "disaster was looming" in the Gulf Coast region, Mr. Brown said he had warned Andrew H. Card Jr., President Bush's chief of staff, at least three days before the hurricane hit New Orleans on Aug. 28.

"They were aware of that by Thursday or Friday because Andy Card and I were communicating at that point," Mr. Brown told a special House committee investigating the government's response. "In fact, I remember saying to Andy at one point that this is going to be a bad one. They were focused about it. They knew it."

What is Mr. Brown's explanation for the disatrous response to the disaster?

"I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together," Mr. Brown said. "I just couldn't pull that off."
And why couldn't he pull that off? Again, not his fault. This time, an entire state is at fault:

At one point Mr. Brown testified, "My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional."
This was not, however, the tune Brown was singing at the first of the month. Then, he blamed the people of New Orleans:

The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday those New Orleans residents who chose not to heed warnings to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina bear some responsibility for their fates.

Michael Brown also agreed with other public officials that the death toll in the city could reach into the thousands.

"Unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN.

"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said.

"And to find people still there is just heart-wrenching to me because, you know, the mayor did everything he could to get them out of there.

"So, we've got to figure out some way to convince people that whenever warnings go out it's for their own good," Brown said. "Now, I don't want to second guess why they did that. My job now is to get relief to them."
But really, this is just the same song, second verse. In August, Brown told Larry King that a flood of New Orleans was FEMA's worst case scenario for a natural disaster. And his his solution? Ask churches, charities, and private organizations for help. Which is only reasonable: after all, it's what Bush said, later. Apparently the real "first responders" to a crisis are not government employees, but the people themselves.

Which leads us back to the real issue: Brown is a scapegoat, if his testimony is examined for inconistencies and lies. He is, instead, the symbol, the representative, the perfect example, of this Administration. Brown is not responsible? Well, neither is Bush. Brown is incompetent and delusional? So is Bush.

No one in this administration is ever responsible for anything, except for not hewing closely enough to the party line. Michael Brown wants to paint himself now as Chicken Little, whose only responsibility was to tell the King the sky was falling. But Brown was not merely a messenger, or a "coordinator." His agency was the one federal agency charged with responsibility for responding to natural disasters. But this entire administration takes only one responsibility seriously: doling out the cash. Responsibility, except for friends and business cronies, is for chumps.

What Mr. Brown's testimony should do, but won't, is focus us on the real issue: money, and who gets it, and why. As Kyra Phillips said to Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

That's another huge issue that we need to tackle, because all of us of Americans need to pay closer attention to the poor in the United States. No one should have to live the way they're living now.
Amen.

ADDENDUM: Because I know Haloscan isn't always cooperative, I'll add janeboatler's comment in full,here:

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional."

That's his biggest mistake, is it?

Perhaps this link to the Bush Statement on Emergency Assistance for Louisiana on Aug. 27, 2005, could have been a pretty big mistake too.

This statement no longer appears in a search on the White House web site - at least I could not find it - but the web address still works, and you can find the cache on Google. The parishes mentioned are all in the central and northern part of Louisiana; not one coastal parish is included. Check out a map of Louisiana. Does anyone think Gov. Blanco gave this info out, that she doesn't know where the parishes in her state are located? Apparently FEMA or The White House or someone high in government didn't have it quite straight as of Aug. 27. A corrected statement, which included the coastal parishes, was put out a day or so later. Still...

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