I’ve been sick the last few days, so I didn’t have the concentration needed to blog. I’d planned to catch up today with commentary on former FEMA Director Brown’s resignation, but new information makes it less useful for me to comment directly on that story. Yes, Brown was effectively fired, but President Bush’s role on the sideline of Brown’s downfall remains as Brown effectively “fell on his own sword” to protect the president. Ultimately, it’s about responsibility and action. President Bush didn’t pursue the (symbolic) action and fire Brown himself. Whatever; Brown is gone and we can move forward. In an uncharatersitic move, though, President Bush made this statement today:
Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn’t fully do its job right, I take responsibility. I want to know what went right and what went wrong. I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm. And that’s a very important question. And it’s in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on and — so that we can better respond.
Yeah, that’s close to right. I’m surprised but willing to give him time to do exactly that. My interest has always been to see the government succeed at what it’s supposed to do, regardless of who is president. Again, I don’t hate President Bush. I want him to succeed because that means we’re all better off. Those using governmental failure during Hurricane Katrina to score political points reveal themselves as partisan hacks and should be ignored.
I had an interesting exchange in the comments section regarding (former) Director Brown and a commenter’s defense using examples of Einstein and Edison. I disagreed with my sentiment of where President Bush needs to focus the government in learning from this failure.
…none of the examples you provided are relevant to Director Brown. He’s not working independently on a hobby (Einstein, Edison), nor has he already learned the skills he needs for his job (Johnson). Director Brown is showing specific incompetence in the job he currently possesses. That’s why he should be fired.
Another red herring thrown about is that FEMA always responds this poorly to disasters. I don’t disagree with that, but I am saying it’s no longer acceptable. We’ve never had a test run for a real, unexpected catastrophe of this magnitude before, a magnitude akin to a man-made (terrorist) catastrophe. Now that we have, we see (or will discover through later analysis) exactly where the system failed. However, Director Brown showed he can’t even grasp how bad the situation is to understand how to respond. Perhaps that’s just his inability to manage perceptions, but it’s still incompetence. Is that acceptable?
For President Bush to hire Director Brown as head of FEMA is politically negligent, magnified by his campaign promise to keep us safer and to offer better response through the behemoth that is DHS. To leave Director Brown as head of FEMA after he exposed his incompetence is criminal.
Now that Brown is gone, President Bush is merely politically negligent. But the uncertainty of our government’s ability to respond to the next disaster, natural or not, remains. We have to do better. I think we can, so I hope President Bush is sincere in his apology and promise to fix the situation.
There is one general rule about solutions I can offer President Bush, which I hope is obvious to him. I suspect it isn’t, though, so I’ll offer it here. The governmental failures, at all levels, show we need better government. It does not show that we need more government. Early results show that to be the cause. Perhaps some real conservatism, as opposed to this big government nonsense, could push our response to better results in the next crisis.