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Ned Blasts Bush on Katrina; Silence on Lieberman's Role in Confirming Michael Brown at FEMA

by: Maura

Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 02:22:03 AM EDT

Jennifer Medina of the NYT covers Ned Lamont's criticism of the handling of Hurricane Katrina:

Mr. Lamont, the Democratic candidate for United States Senate who has run as an opponent of the Iraq war, asserted that having large numbers of National Guard troops in Iraq slowed the government’s rescue operations in the aftermath of Katrina a year ago, and he called the administration’s handling of the hurricane “symptomatic” of broader management problems.

“We couldn’t afford to fix those levees,” Mr. Lamont said, speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon.

He also criticized the 2002 decision by Congress, at the behest of the Bush administration, to place FEMA within the Department of Homeland Security, saying it led to mismanagement. He said it should be a cabinet-level agency whose secretary reports directly to the president.

I'm not sure whether the Lamont campaign didn't hit Lieberman directly on this or whether Medina didn't pick up on it, but what is totally missing from this article is the critical information that Joe Lieberman presided over the 2002 Senate confirmation hearings for Michael Brown and enthusiastically supported his confirmation as Deputy Director of FEMA.

(Let's look specifically at Lieberman's culpability in confirming Michael Brown after the jump...)

Maura :: Ned Blasts Bush on Katrina; Silence on Lieberman's Role in Confirming Michael Brown at FEMA
Perhaps the knowledge of Lieberman's culpability in this matter is what sent Dan Gerstein into his usual apoplectic defensive hyperbole:

“Maybe in Ned Lamont’s naïve, reality-challenged world, he thinks simply by yelling loud enough he would have gotten the White House to give him what he wanted,” Dan Gerstein, Mr. Lieberman’s spokesman, said in a statement. “But that’s not how things work in Washington.”

Yeah.  How do things work in Lieberman's Washington?  Well, in 2002, Lieberman was the Chair of the Committee on Government Affairs (remember, Democrats were briefly in control of the Senate back then, so Boltin' Joe actually had real oversight power leading confirmation hearings for Bush appointees).  How did he use that oversight power, which could have prevented the famously, cartoonishly unqualified Michael Brown from appointment to leadership at FEMA?

Lieberman presided over a 42-minute confirmation hearing for Michael Brown.  Can you imagine any other executive job interview lasting less than an hour?  Ridiculous.

Some choice quotes from Lieberman's "questioning" of Michael Brown: (link to HTML version of Brown hearing transcript)

I am glad the President has nominated someone already familiar with FEMA's mission to become Deputy Director.

On Michael Brown's "experience" for the job?  Here's our Joe fulfilling his oversight responsibility by praising Brown's resume:

Before joining the Bush administration, I note from his resume, he served as executive director of the Independent Electrical Contractors in Denver.  In the early 1980's, Mr. Brown served as staff director of the Oklahoma Senate's Finance Committee, while serving on the Edmund, Oklahoma, City Council.  He ran for Congress in the sixth district, and, in what I think is particularly useful experience, early in his career, was assistant city manager in Edmond, with responsibility for police, fire, and emergency services.

This "particularly useful experience" that Lieberman praises?  It refers to a job that Michael Brown had while he was in college, from 1975-1978, as an administrative assistant to the city manager in Edmund, OK.  His old boss at that job told Time Magazine about this "particularly useful experience":

"Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

A punctual and well dressed college student intern!  Wow!  Joe Lieberman praises this as "particularly useful experience" for leading a national emergency management agency!  (Kids, you too can lead a major branch of Homeland Security - just starch your shirts and show up on time!)

So, that's how things work in Dan Gerstein and Joe Lieberman's Washington.  Bullshit blather, joking handshakes, and ultimately a rubber-stamp for Bush's nominees.  (Lieberman and Gerstein call that "bipartisanship".)  Here are some more choice Lieberman quotes from the hearing:

Mr. Brown, you have extensive management experience.  For this job, you will need it.

Here's a particularly telling and useful exchange between Brown and Lieberman:

Brown: I am also very grateful for my wife being here today. As all of you know, public service sometimes can cause a heavy toll in termsof just relationships, in terms of the workload, in terms of what the undertaking is that we do in being public servants, and my wife has followed me throughout my career and has been very supportive, at times questioning me, at times prodding me, at times looking at me with that strange look on her face like, ‘‘What are you doing now?’’ [Laughter.]  But throughout all of it, she has been very supportive, so I would like to introduce my wife, Tamara, and just tell you how much I appreciate her being here today.

Chairman Lieberman: Thank you for being here, Mrs. Brown.  All of us are familiar with that strange spousal look that Mr. Brown referred to. ‘‘What are you doing now?’’ I have seen that a few times at home. [Laughter.]

Yuk, yuk!  We're all just buddies here!  See how we get along?  See you and the Missus at the cocktail party on Thursday night!  Hooray for bipartisanship!

Chairman Lieberman:  Thank you very much.  That is a good answer.

More yuk yuk follies:

Chairman Lieberman:  I urge you to continue to think about that. We are all together. We are all trying to figure out in a very new circumstance what the best way is to organize the government’s response. It is just the question was raised in my mind whether parts of the functions of this new CBRN Directorate, frankly, would be better in the other directorate with FEMA, and I encourage a continued dialogue on that.

Mr. Brown: I think there will be a lot of dialogue in that regard.

Chairman Lieberman: Sure. Thank you.

Finally, I'd like you to reflect on this exchange between Lieberman and Brown, the most substantive and serious of the hearing, in which Lieberman asks Brown about evacuation plans for nuclear power plants in the US.  Lieberman asks Brown about his role "in investigating the adequacy of these evacuation plans for nuclear power plants in the United States."  Great question.  Critical.  Here's Brown's completely BS response, and "Chairman" Lieberman's reaction:

Mr. Brown: I think my role is a very serious one. I think the agency’s role is a very serious one, that we should not just wait for someone to petition or request that we evaluate, that those types of plans should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. It would be my intent to somehow implement the ongoing evaluation so we do not have to look in hindsight and say, gosh, we wish we had looked at that. We should be looking at that all the time to make sure they are adequate, and I will pledge to you that we will certainly do that.

Chairman Lieberman: I appreciate that, obviously, from the point of view of Connecticut.

Look at the substance (or lack thereof) of Brown's response.  I've worked in management in the private sector making hiring decisions as part of a team of interviewers, and I can't imagine recommending the hiring of someone who'd give such a completely blathering, rambling, pointless, bullshit answer to such a critical question.  Yet less than a minute after this exchange, this is what Senator Lieberman said:

Chairman Lieberman:  Mr. Brown, I thank you very much. I will certainly support your nomination. I will do my best to move it through the Committee as soon as possible so we can have you fully and legally at work in your new position. In the meantime, I thank you very much. I thank your family for their support of you, and at this point, we will adjourn the hearing.

42 minutes of hard work.  That's the way things are done in Washington according to Gerstein and Lieberman.  (Don't just trust my excerpting -- if you have time, read the whole thing.  It's really even more damning in its entirety.)

Joe Lieberman was a leader who had oversight responsibility and was actually in power in the Senate leading the committee that should have actually VETTED Michael Brown, not praised him effusively based solely on his own resume or used most of the 42-minute hearing to engage in inane banter.  Joe Lieberman abdicated his oversight authority.  That's the way things are done in Lieberman's Washington.

Which is exactly why we need a new Senator from Connecticut.

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I just realized something (4.00 / 7)
I spent more than twice the time on this diary that Joe Lieberman did presiding over the confirmation of Michael Brown to be Deputy Director of FEMA.

That's pitiful.

HECK OF A JOB, MAURA_IE (0.00 / 0)
Don't take it the wrong way, I just couldn't resist using that famous phrase...

"If those in charge of our society...can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves." ~~Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
Great diary (4.00 / 2)
I just posted a similar diary at Daily Kos with additional source material on Lieberman being AWOL while FEMA atrophied from a strong operational agency to a joke. I was going to cross post it here but I'll just link to it instead because Maura did such a great job.


I've got extra material on the lack of oversight in Lieberman's committee and how Lieberman ignored people like James Lee Witt and Ivo Daalder in placing FEMA at the center of a bureaucratic monster like DHS. Also a bit in the comments about how "unity and purpose" Joe Lieberman blocked the supremely effective DHS IG Clark Kent Ervin from being renominated in a petty turf battle.


I was digging through links (0.00 / 0)
and missed that you had posted this before posting my duplicate link below.

Great research!

[ Parent ]
Ned blasted Lieberman in the AP wire story (4.00 / 2)
Newsday.com via lamontblog:

Lamont criticizes Lieberman, Bush over Katrina response

AP Political Writer

August 24, 2006, 6:06 PM EDT

Democratic primary winner Ned Lamont is accusing U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, now running as an independent, of not holding the Bush administration accountable for failures in responding to the disaster.

Lamont also says Lieberman, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, mistakenly agreed to put the troubled Federal Emergency Management Agency under the control of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"I think FEMA worked really well when it had professional management as an independent agency," Lamont said in an interview this week. "And sure, it was Senator Lieberman who said, 'Let's redo FEMA.' It was Senator Lieberman who said, 'Let's put Michael Brown as No. 2 at FEMA."'

It's hard to tell if the AP writer had tonge-firmly-in-cheek with the mention of the Lieberman-Collins Unity ™ report recommending abolishing FEMA after they broke it by placing it under Homeland (In)Security.

Lamont is calling for FEMA to be returned to an independent, cabinet-level agency. The report issued by Lieberman and Collins concluded that only by abolishing FEMA and replacing it with a stronger authority could the government best respond to future catastrophes.

Indeed (0.00 / 0)
how does an agency go from being a crack organization to a basket case right under your nose?

BushCo delivers again (0.00 / 0)
This is an emblematic example of (mis)government under the BushCo regime. Patronage, corruption, and let's not forget huge profits for connected pet corporations. The demise of Clark Kent Ervin was all too typical. Impeccable conservative credentials don't matter to BushCo. You can't be a straight shooter, such as Paul O'Neill, Coleen Rowley or Richard Clarke (and many other outstanding public servants, some progressive, some conservative, who either walked out in disgust or were shown the door). You must be a "player", i.e., a sycophant, like Michael Brown, and so many other BushCo appointees (most grievously, and egregiously, Samuel Alito) and veteran "survivors". Then you are lavished with raises, promotions and pResidential "freedom" medals.

[ Parent ]
Some other links about how Lieberman screwed up FEMA (4.00 / 4)
joejoejoe's diary at Dailykos:

Lamont slams Lieberman as AWOL on Katrina leadership

Which points to some juicy little tidbits like this:

In 2002, against the advice of experts like Clinton FEMA chief James Lee Witt and Brookings Institute senior fellow Ivo Daalder Sen. Lieberman plowed ahead folding FEMA into his shiny new Department of Homeland Security. Here's a warning from Ivo Daalder against putting FEMA in a giant bureaucracy from 6/25/02:
Daalder: Take FEMA. This is one of the best run federal government agencies. It has excellent record, gained through years of responding to natural disasters, of dealing with state and local government entities and first responders. In its FY2003 budget, the Bush administration proposed that FEMA take central control of all training and grant programs for first responders, providing state and local authorities with the kind of one-stop shopping and integrated training program they have long demanded. Why, then, tear an agency with such a successful record from its roots and integrate into a much larger bureaucracy, with new command and control lines?

Link to Ivo Daalder's April 2002 testimony

By its own account, the Bush administration only seriously considered the possibility of reorganizing the federal government in late April 2002—more than seven months after the horrible events of September 11. Up to that point, the administration believed that the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), the Homeland Security Council (HSC), and the appointment of former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as Director of Homeland Security by executive action in October 2001 met the organizational needs of the federal government. There was some interest in consolidating border security functions—but an effort by Ridge to convince key Cabinet members of the value of merging Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was rebuffed the Department heads most immediately affected by such a merger.

Worried that Tom Ridge was losing out in internal bureaucratic battles, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card suggested to the president that he lead a small, secret White House effort to examine reorganization options. That effort started in late April. It was conducted in absolute secrecy, involving only a very few White House aides. It received no input from experts within the administration, the Congress, or outside the government. And it was completed even before the administration had decided on its homeland security strategy, which Ridge promised he would deliver to the president some time this summer. The result of this effort is the proposal that is now before us.

No one proposes to merge the diplomatic functions of the State Department with the military functions of the Pentagon, even though both have a role in national security policy—including in countering terrorism. Might it not be better, then, to leave FEMA be, and coordinate its counter-terrorism role as part of a well-functioning interagency process?

So, where did the push to consolidate FEMA with HLS come from? And why didn't Lieberman scrutinize any of these efforts? Heck of a good job Joey!

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