Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Thomas White of 2005?

It would appear to the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, if early warning signal Paul Krugman will have his way:

...the downgrading of FEMA continued, with the appointment of Michael Brown as Mr. Allbaugh's successor.

Mr. Brown had no obvious qualifications, other than having been Mr. Allbaugh's college roommate. But Mr. Brown was made deputy director of FEMA; The Boston Herald reports that he was forced out of his previous job, overseeing horse shows. And when Mr. Allbaugh left, Mr. Brown became the agency's director. The raw cronyism of that appointment showed the contempt the administration felt for the agency; one can only imagine the effects on staff morale.

And imagining is something of a Krugman specialty, as former Army Sec'y Thomas White found out. For those who have forgotten that little episode, Krugman took an out of context remark from an e-mail that has never been authenticated, to charge White with criminal stock fraud in his role with Enron--White had no financial or accounting responsibilites at that company, but was a logistics expert--only to have to humiliatingly withdraw (sorta) the charge.

It's pretty obvious that Brown is in for some of the same, and probably with just as little regard for the facts. Brown has had four years experience now in the 'disaster business', and was the head of FEMA during last year's six hurricane season--four of which struck Florida, including two category 4 storms. In the wake of which there was little, if any, criticism of Brown and his agency.

For some reason, the usual suspects of the left have been hammering Brown for a prior job he held. As Krugman above, so Maureen Dowd (who told Brian Lamb she, 'worked at the Washington Hilton, in the racquet club, hiring and firing lifeguards and tennis instructors.', prior to becoming a journalist):

Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association...

David Warsh:

the Boston Herald's Brett Arends reported Saturday that the Federal official in charge of the New Orleans rescue -- the ill-at-ease gent at his side whom Bush embraced as "Brownie" during their Friday tour -- had been "fired from his last private sector job overseeing horse shows."

Kevin Drum (quoting Laura Rozen:

As several readers have alerted me, not only was FEMA chief Michael D. Brown a former attorney for the Lyons, Colorado based International Arabian Horse Association, but he was actually *fired from* the International Arabian Horse Association.

What could have happened to change Brown to an incompetent in 2005? The FLUBA Committee on Scapegoaters suggests that, as the Governor of Montana has recently admitted,
"In politics, it doesn't matter what the facts are....It matters what the perceptions are. It is the way you frame it."

And, the way FEMA's performance is being framed is to focus only on the things that went less than perfectly, and ignore all the hard work and heroism that went into rescuing people.

It's the old 'Ted Williams was a bad baseball player because he failed to get a hit twice as often as he succeeded' argument. Just as Williams, when judged against every other major league baseball player (not against perfection) turns out to be one of the best to ever stride into a batter's box, it well could be that Michael Brown judged against the performances of other disaster relievers will shine.

But the Krugman, Dowds, Russerts, Drums won't ever make that kind of comparison. Because the mayor of New Orleans (judging him by the Giuliani standard) was clever enough to distract their attention from his failures by pointing fingers elsewhere.

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