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Shays berates Bush admin; Brown apologizes - NOT

Reported by Chrish - September 27, 2005

A stunning statement for a Republican Congressman was aired on The Big Story today, 9/27/05.

Catherine Herridge introduced the clip telling us that Shays said that Michael Brown's tenure as head of FEMA has come to symbolize the worst aspects of the Bush White House and political patronage in Washington.

Congressman Chris Shays (R-CT) said "I have come to the conclusion that this administration values loyalty more than anything else. And when you say more than anything else, more than competence or frankly, more than the truth. And you (to Brown) have reinforced that view."

The segment on hearings today by the House Government Reform Committee centered on the still-DHS-employed Brown, who at first appeared to be taking responsibility for the poor response of his agency but who was really diverting blame, again, to the overwhelmed local and state officials. He admitted to making mistakes:

1. Not briefing the media on a regular basis
2. Failing to see the situation developing in Louisiana was "dysfunctional" and
3. Failing to improve the poor working relationship between state and local authorities.

He is shown apologizing for not being able to get Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down and resolve their differences.

Herridge says that Brown appears again and again to put the blame on Nagin and Blanco, who he says were reticent to call a mandatory evacuation, and when they did it was too late. He says that FEMA is not a first-responder agency and that complaints that FEMA should have reacted more aggressively would have violated Emergency Response Standards which have been in place for decades.

Comment: Not mentioned: According to DHS' December 2004 National Response Plan (NRP), "catastrophic events," such as what occurred in New Orleans, call for heightened and "proactive" federal involvement to manage the disaster. Credit Alternet.org.

Herridge next reads a statement from Governor Blanco, who says "Such falsehoods and misleading statements made under oath before Congress are shocking. It clearly demonstrates the appalling degree to which Mr. Brown is either out of touch with the truth or reality." Blanco also said this is another indication of why an independent, non-partisan investigation is needed.

Congressman Shays joined Gibson for the next segment. He and Gibson were pretty much in agreement, that FEMA had failed as an agency and Brown had failed as a leader. (Gibson had called for Brown's firing before his "resignation".) While not absolving Brown at all, Shays says there are still huge problems with FEMA; their command structure is central and no-one has local authority. Shays says that Brown said he had concerns after the "Pam" exercises, a "what-if" scenario with a Category 3 hurricane hitting NOLA, but he made his concerns known privately, not publicly. Had Congress been aware of his concerns, Shays says they would have been addressed. But "if the White House knew, if the administtration knew there were problems but they were basically saying 'be a good soldier, be a loyal employee, and argue the case as we're allowing you to spend your budget, uh, that's just an outrage."

Comment: I hope that FOX and Republican officials criticizing FEMA does not portend its dismantling and extinction. We really need this agency to be brought back up to the standards it held prior to the appointment of inept cronies.

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