There is a rising chorus demanding that President Bush fire FEMA head Michael Brown and replace him with someone who can do this job, which he clearly cannot.
NPR this morning reviewed his background, which prepared him not at all for this job: He spent almost a decade at the International Arabian Horse Association, though his FEMA biography says nothing of this. Knight-Ridder does likewise:
From failed Republican congressional candidate to ousted “czar” of an Arabian horse association, there was little in Michael D. Brown’s background to prepare him for the fury of Hurricane Katrina.
But as the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brown now faces furious criticism of the federal response to the disaster that wiped out New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. He provoked some of it himself when he conceded that FEMA didn’t know that thousands of refugees were trapped at New Orleans’ convention center without food or water until officials heard it on the news.
Bush says: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”
The Times-Picayune calls for his firing in a strong and eloquent editorial and open letter to the President on its newsblog:
Dear Mr. President:
We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, “What is not working, we’re going to make it right.”
Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism….
… the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.
We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame….
Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.
In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, “We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day.”
Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.
Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, “You’re doing a heck of a job.”
There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too….
Hear, too, the emotional appeal from Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard on Meet the Press:
MR. AARON BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy….
It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now….
Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA–we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, “Come get the fuel right away.” When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. “FEMA says don’t give you the fuel.” Yesterday–yesterday–FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, “No one is getting near these lines.” Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America–American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn’t be in this crisis….
The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” And he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday.” And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night….
Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.
And he cried.
Find a real manager for this vital job, not a crony. Fire Brownie, Mr. President.
And the people of Louisiana will decide which of their elected officials should be fired in due time.