Thursday, September 15, 2005

Brownie: the "exit interview"

A very revealing piece in the NYTimes, also excerpted in Froomkin, in which pretty much dumps on everyone involved in the immediate response to ...he seems forthright, but can't help himself in trying to protect the White House to the end, partisan hack that he is/was. For instance, at one point he says, "I truly believed the White House was not at fault here." Yet later in the story, he tells of phoning the White House and Chertoff a number of times during the crucial days after the hurricane. His story - try as he might to place blame elsewhere - shows they clearly didn't get the severity of the situation and so bear their share of responsibility. Here are a few of his insights:
By Saturday afternoon, many residents were leaving. But as the hurricane approached early on Sunday, Mr. Brown said he grew so frustrated with the failure of local authorities to make the evacuation mandatory that he asked Mr. Bush for help.

"Would you please call the mayor and tell him to ask people to evacuate?" Mr. Brown said he asked Mr. Bush in a phone call.

"Mike, you want me to call the mayor?" the president responded in surprise, Mr. Brown said.
How dare he ask the President to call the Mayor in the midst of a natural disaster the likes of which the U.S. rarely sees?

On the Monday night, there was this:
On Monday night, Mr. Brown said, he reported his growing worries to Mr. Chertoff and the White House. He said he did not ask for federal active-duty troops to be deployed because he assumed his superiors in Washington were doing all they could. Instead, he said, he repeated a dozen times, "I cannot get a unified command established."
Brownie, who did you think you were talking to? Experienced military guys?

And on the Tuesday night:
That night, Mr. Brown said, he called Mr. Chertoff and the White House again in desperation. "Guys, this is bigger than what we can handle," he told them, he said. "This is bigger than what FEMA can do. I am asking for help."

"Maybe I should have screamed 12 hours earlier," Mr. Brown said in the interview. "But that is hindsight. We were still trying to make things work."
So clearly, by Brownie the crony's own account, the White House and Homeland Security were slow in getting it...

And one last shot to bring Blanco down:
He focused much of his criticism on Governor Blanco, contrasting what he described as her confused response with far more agile mobilizations in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in Florida during last year's hurricanes.
But again, this seems a bit unfair, while Mississippi and Alabama were hit hard, they did not have a major city like underwater with the particular challenges that situation brought. And the comparison with Florida is just not on. We all know Florida was very well organized in the Fall of 2004 as a federal election was looming on the horizon. The brothers Bush saw to that. Blanco's staff rebuts Brownie's criticism pretty effectively:
Governor Blanco's communications director, Mr. Mann, said that she was frustrated that Mr. Brown and others at FEMA wanted itemized requests before acting. "It was like walking into an emergency room bleeding profusely and being expected to instruct the doctors how to treat you," he said.
Farewell Brownie, please come back from time to time to enlighten us with tales of incompetence from inside the White House...