Brown’s blame game

Six months after Katrina, the country is still looking for answers regarding the government’s slow-response time in coming to the aid of the victims.

On Sept. 1, 2005, a few days after Katrina hit New Orleans, President Bush said, “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.”

That statement would leave us to believe that the storm and its aftermath were huge surprises, which would possibly explain why the government couldn’t move fast enough to save more lives. Was that the case? Of course not.

Last week, The Associated Press made public video footage that showed Bush being briefed about the possibility that the levees might not hold. Members of both the Democrat and Republican parties went into overdrive mode, either trying once again to point out the inadequacies of the current administration or to rush to the president’s defense.

Major fumbling occurred at all levels of government after Katrina hit, and critics came out of every corner to attack one man in particular – Michael Brown, former head of Federal Emergency Management Agency, who resigned amid accusations that he wasn’t qualified for the position. At the time Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, he didn’t seem to know his left from his right, much less how to run an organization like FEMA.

In an interview on Fox News, Brown is still showing people that he doesn’t understand what happened.

After Chris Wallace asked Brown what level of blame would he assign to the federal government or local government, he said would he blame 30 percent on the federal government. Fair enough. FEMA’s role is to come in at the request of local and state officials.

But then Wallace starts asking more questions and before you know it, Brown isn’t making sense. Brown said he called the president and the appropriate staff on Saturday and Sunday (before Katrina hit on Monday) and told them that the hurricane would be serious and urged them to be prepared.

Wallace then asked a very simple question: Why didn’t they then act in those first days if it was his job to get everything moving?

Brown admitted, “I don’t know.”

It’s funny how Brown is trying to turn this situation around. One minute he claims he was on top of everything and putting in the appropriate warnings. The next minute, he claims he didn’t know what was going on or how things got screwed up.

Later in the interview, Brown ends with this sobering statement: “I think we’re worse off. There’s still this confusion about what FEMA is supposed to do and not do. The partnerships between FEMA and state and local governments have been broken and will continue to be broken by the path that the secretary is headed down. So I think we’re worse off today than we were even before Katrina.”

If anything, this storm should have pointed out FEMA’s shortcomings and given officials an idea of how to rework the organization so that the next times its services are needed, a swift and adequate response will only be moments away. The fact that we still don’t know what went wrong is the scariest part of all.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.