Sunday, February 19, 2006

Chertoff Said He Knew Brown Was Failing During Katrina, But Didn't Tell Bush ... Or Brown. How Did He Expect FEMA To Avoid Failure?

Which was more important, helping the people of the Gulf Coast survive Hurricane Katrina ... or Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown's feelings?

Based on his interview today with NBC's Tim Russert, you'd have to conclude that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was more concerned with Brown's feelings. Perhaps that's a piece of the puzzle as to why the federal government so badly managed last summer's disaster.

Maybe, instead of worrying about keeping "people's spirits up," Chertoff should have been working with Brown to come up with solutions to the myriad of problems that occurred in the days following the storm. Perhaps the death toll might not have been as high if Chertoff had worried less about giving "brutal assessments about people’s performance."

Given what we know now about Chertoff's incompetence, isn't it time President Bush ask Chertoff to resign?

From today's edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

CHERTOFF: Thursday night, I began to — I asked myself, “Are we dealing with a situation where it’s not just the inherent, overwhelming challenge, but that maybe, despite good intentions, Mr. Brown is really not up to this.

RUSSERT: “Mike Brown not up to this.” The very next day, the president came down to the Gulf region, and here you are on the screen — right of the screen in the purple shirt, Mr. Brown in the middle, the president on the left. And this is where the president uttered these now-infamous words. Let’s listen.

(Videotape, September 2, 2005)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.

(End videotape)

RUSSERT: The president is saying he’s doing a heck of a job; the night before, you’re saying, “I don’t think the guy’s up to it.” Why didn’t you tell the president?

CHERTOFF: Well, again, I never get into conversations with the president. But I do think the context of that remark is that Brown had been up for, you know, practically every night for the last few days. I think whatever my judgment was about whether his skills were matched to the challenge, I think certainly everybody believed at that point he was doing his best. And I think this is really an effort to kind of buck the troops up, recognize the fact that everybody was really exhausted and working hard. And the fact is, we were in the middle — still very much in the middle of the event, and we needed to keep people’s spirits up, so I think you’ve got to look at this as — in the context of a recognition that everybody was really exhausted and overwhelmed by the nature of the challenge.

RUSSERT: Was it an attempt to spin the American people? Things on the ground were in such stark reality to what the official pronouncements coming out of the government were?

CHERTOFF: No, I think — I think, you know, when you are in a disaster, you actually look people in the eyes, and you see how they’re working their hearts out. And even if it — if they haven’t done the kind of job that you wish they could have done. As a human matter, I think you want to reach out, you want to, you know, pat them on the back, you want to buck them up. I don’t think that’s the time to start to engage in finger pointing or in — in, you know, giving brutal assessments about people’s performance.


Anonymous trinity said...

I have a question. Considering all of the condemnation of the Bush Administration that's been going on with regard to Katrina, has anyone here had enough intellectual honesty to criticize or at least to acknowledge the mistakes of the state and local governments as well?

Just wondering, because I don't remember reading anything like that on this blog, and since the State of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans have been run solely by Democrats for several decades now, it occurs to me that they might share just a bit in the responsibility for whatever was or was not done during the Katrina disaster.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

I think that predates your visiting the site, Trinity.

I can't get you a link, but I do remember David saying that the state and local governments had not done well, either, but that conservative talk radio was trying to steer all blame away from Brown and Chertoff.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...
I think that predates your visiting the site, Trinity.

Thanks, cutiepie. That's good to know. :)

I think if one is being honest, one would have to admit that there were plenty of mistakes made by all levels of government in the handling of the Katrina disaster.

Having said that, however, when you think of the enormity of the disaster, and all of the "turf" and logistical problems involved, it should not be a shock to find out that there were mistakes made. Such is the nature of bureaucracies.

Still, the threat of the levees breaking is something that people in that area have lived with for decades. It was something they thought about, but probably didn't really believe would ever happen. That's perfectly clear when you see how many people didn't even bother to evacuate. Very, very sad.

Hopefully, the finger-pointing and CYA tactics will come to an end eventually, and everyone involved will have learned from their mistakes, so that a disaster like Hurricane Katrina can be handled better in the future.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous KatPop said...

brownie didn't do such a good job

5:30 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

Just reading Chertoff's own words, he sounds like he's in over his head.

5:50 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

Trinity, again you miss the point.
I think the Katrina report makes it very clear Bush and his administration failed to take a leadership role in managing the Katrina response, which would have gone miles towards preventing the hundreds of deaths.
The Buck never stops at the White House. A significant point of the Katrina report is that the Bush Administration had and should have used to its advantage ITS' LEADERSHIP ROLE.
I think the Katrina report also makes it very clear that the inititatives of the Administration, which involve the revamping of the FEMA agency, have left it inadequate to handle natural disasters. The report makes it very clear that part of packaging FEMA in the Department of Homeland Security took away its focus on natural disasters and placed an overriding focus on terrorism, now viewed as horribly misplaced.
Because the report also shares less blame than on the Bush Administration to local and state governments, the Bush apologists use this as an clause to again questionably try to defend him.
Bush and Bush apologists only defense for all his incompetences has been to shift the blame elsewhere, on Congress, on local governments, on critics, etc.
Bush's legacy will be the passing of new legislation, whether it concern intelligence gathering or emergency response, to correct his mistakes, deficiencies and incompetences.
Some leader. How many more people will have to die and suffer unnecessarilly because of this moron -- and because of the equally unbrilliant apologists who scrape and scrunge for reasons to defend him.
We have people like Trinity who despite the all telling experience of 9-11 and Katrina outrageously believe PRESIDENT BUSH IS COMPETENT TO PROTECT US.
Amazing indeed. No wonder people outside the U.S. look at us generally as such idiots.

10:16 AM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

If a terrorist's bomb had broken the levee in New Orleans, instead of a hurricane,* would you still insist the Bush Administration merely succumbed to sharing mistakes with local governments? Would you still believe Bush is competent to protect the country from terrorism?

* Bush's response would have been, "but no one anticipated the terrorists would have targeted the levee."

10:37 AM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

* Or, Bush's response would have been, "no one could have imagined terrorists blowing up a levee."

Remember the Bush Administration said, no one could have imagined terrorists flying airplanes into buildings. The record shows Bush had ample warning both of the possibility of such an event taking place, just like he had ample warning of studies showing the levees could not withstand a major hurricane in New Orleans. The Bush Administration cut funding for repairing the levees, reportedly to make more money available for Iraq.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous trinity said...

thewaronterrible said...
"Trinity, again you miss the point."

No. I don't think I missed the point, twot. I just cannot deal very well with people like you who are so blinded by your hatred of this administration that you are incapable of being fair in your criticism.

I have no problem with constructive criticism that points out where mistakes may have been made, so long as it's honest criticism, and fairly distributed among all who shared the responsibility. A little intellectual honesty would be nice once in a while, you know?

I honestly do not remember reading anything you've ever written here, twot, that would indicate to me that you were capable of even the most miniscule degree of fairness or objectivity when discussing President Bush. You are a perfect example of what is wrong with your party, seemingly destined to forever be the same nattering nabobs of negativity described by Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1970.

As far as President Bush's legacy in concerned, I predict that history will treat this President extremely well. Rather than the "moron" that you see through your prism of pure partisan hatred, I think he'll be shown to be quite the visionary, as was true in the case of President Reagan.

Remember this post, ten years from now. I think you'll be very surprised at the positive things that President Bush will be remembered for.

3:07 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

Every thing I say, every opinion I have is well substantiated and formed by a long trail of facts.
Every counterpoint you make, "moved by pure partison hatred" "colored by my hatred of the administration" etc. is supported by nothing more than your feeble baseless opinion that you are somehow smart enough to see behind "my true motivation."
I am motivated by facts. Give me a competent Republican president and I will support him with all my heart. Yes I'm angry that my country has a president responsible for the deaths of so many people, of torturing people and holding them without due process, of violating the constitution Nixon-style via spying on Americans, of attacking a country that did not provoke us resulting in a war bankrupting my nation's coffers, of turning a trillion dollar plus surplus into a trillion dollar plus deficit, largely through an uncalled for tax break for the upper 1% of income earners. I could go on.
If you tried to argue the way you do in a professional debate, you would be thrown out.
Why don't you respond to my concerns HEAD ON that are raised by many more people than myself, even, I dare to say, some Republicans.
Answer my claims instead of automatically writing off my well-substantiated arguments with unfounded dribble, or don't waste my time.

5:07 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

Bush will be seen as a true visionary, you say. Why don't you tell me, how so?
Yeah, he had the vision alright to cut funding to repair the levees in New Orleans. He had the vision to downplay the Al Quada threat prior to 9-11 and deemphasize the ongoing investigation initiated by Clinton.
He had the vision to predict what would happen after invading Iraq.
Even if Iraq somehow succeeds in democraticizing the Middle East, which the election of Hamas hardly shows moving in that direction, it will not be forgotten the failures to plan for the Iraq war.
All my claims are well documented. Only conservatives often fail to connect the dots.

5:13 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

Here's a link to an article about a situation you yourself brought to my attention:
Clearly, the Bush Administration, Chertoff, etc. signed a contract with an company based in the UA to control our nation's ports, the same UA country that housed the 9-11 terrorists.
I heard Chertoff's excuse on the radio that proper checks were done on the company. He declined to go into details, as always, hiding behind the usual Bush Administration claim of "classified info."
(Observe how classified info did not matter in the Plame matter).
The father of one of the 9-11 victims in the story rightfully asks, "has the Bush Administration gone insane?"
How do you respond, Trinity? You still believe Bush is apt at protecting our country?
Oh, but I forgot. Bush is a visionary. And I am too full of hatred to shed light on this information.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous RufusEarl said...

Not being able to speak truth to power!

2:25 PM  
Anonymous MadMaddie said...

Fire him already.....if the man can't handle...
a storm...How is he handling the Department of Homeland Security!! How can Americans continue to justify this failure of a man in this critical job.

He doesn't get into discussions with the President!! If he doesn't talk to him during a critical storm...if we get hit by a Nuke...

Why isn't he gone yet?

2:26 PM  
Anonymous tanyev said...

He's so thoughtful. That might just earn him a medal.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous soonerhoosier said...

Chertoff is not incomeptent. He is evil.

He successfully defended 9/11 financier Magdy Elamir. Elamir had known connections to bin Laden for years.

Those are the facts. Shouldn't that disqualify him for the position of Director of Homeland Security?

"Why would New Jersey's Top Attorney Michael Chertoff represent a person of el-Amir's relatively modest financial position? Though comfortable, el-Amir had failed to reach millionaire status. Not exactly Chertoff's typical clientele, as reported by The Bergen Record on June 19, 2000:

"New Jersey is home to about 65,000 lawyers, some of whom are quite good at what they do. But if the state had a First Lawyer, or a Lawyer Laureate, it just might be Michael Chertoff..."

2:40 PM  
Anonymous ThoughtCriminal said...

Being a good lawyer does not mean that one is a good manager or have a clue about security or emergency disaster response.

He got this job becasue he was that he was special counsel for the Senate committee studying allegations against the Clintons and was a fund raiser for Bush.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous soonerhoosier said...

That's true. He may or may not be a generally competent person. I agree that he was & is expressly UNQUALIFIED for his current position.

I also like to bring up his connection with Magdy Elamir whenever possible, which should have DISqualified him.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous TahitiNut said...

In my role as a management auditor, I had to deal with inept managers who were knowingly put in their positions by the executives to whom they reported. Let's be clear. It's not that unusual for executives to promote/appoint someone in whom they have faith - faith that they'll "grow into the job." Sometimes, the newly-appointed manager gets in too far over their heads and the executives withhold the support and resources that might overcome the difficulties, compounding a problem and generating a catastrophe. In such events, it's NEVER a good idea to make the manager a fall-guy - nor is a cover-up called for.

The approach I've taken is to say "you've been part of the problem - the question is whether you'll be part of the solution." I've said this to both the manager and the executives. (It's one of the inversions of authority that comes with the role of being a management auditor - and having "the goods" on them.)

The best possible result is when the executives take responsibility for their choice and pour the (delayed and withheld) support and resources into shoring up the victimized manager in creating the improvements and solutions ot the failing operations. It requires candor, integrity, and diligence - and the absence of any of them makes any long-term improvement impossible.

Bush/Cheney/Chertoff KNEW Brown wasn't qualified. Instead of shoring up the organization and providing the kind of support and resources that would protect against the failings of Brown, they backed off even further (in "cover your ass" mode) and turned a failure into a total catastrophe. One can surely fault Brown for taking a job he was unqualified to perform. The greater fault lies with Chertoff and Bush for exacerbating the impact of Brown's ineptitude and letting the failures become catastrophic - especially when they damned well KNEW he wasn't up to the job.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous MadMaddie said...

TahitiNut that is this administration....

Not only do they put unqualified people in positions of National Security, they don't support them and during the same time they cut funding and reorg the organizations. Hurricane season is right around the corner and Chertoff is now reorganizaing FEMA again. It's obvious that this organization needs to return to a cabinet position, but we know it never will because * doesn't have time for Federal Emergency Management crisis.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous TahitiNut said...

Hurricanes don't bleed and beg for mercy. Thus, the sociopaths in charge aren't motivated. They want blood. They want an 'enemy' they can kill, imprison, and enslave.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous elehhhhna said...

Hey! Thousands were dying, so I felt sorry for BROWNIE? wtf?

3:48 PM  
Anonymous coalition_unwilling said...

Skeletor (Chertoff) is Eichmann (or maybe Heydrich)
All the rich people got out in their SUVs. Skeletor and Frodo don't care about black people and, as long as it was poor, black people dying, Skeletor wasn't going to lift a finger until he was shamed into it.

3:48 PM  

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