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Bush’s FEMA Freaks

Under the highly-qualified Clinton appointee James Lee Witt, FEMA became a model for government efficiency. From 1995:

How FEMA transformed itself from what many considered to be the worst federal agency (no small distinction) to among the best is the most dramatic success story of the federal government in recent years. Not only does it provide further evidence that the government can work, it offers a blueprint for what it takes: strong leadership, energetic oversight, and, most importantly, a total reevaluation of its mission.


Virtually overnight, the agency has developed a new reputation for quickness and efficiency. Gone are the bureaucratic swamps that the old FEMA had made its hallmark. It is telling that when state disaster officials talk about FEMA’s response time, they no longer speak in days or weeks, but in hours. They speak of phone calls, not of forms dropped in the mail.

And the FEMA story under GWB? Well, let’s consider Bush’s first FEMA appointee, Joe Allbaugh, who got the job after managing Bush’s 2000 campaign. From July of 2001:

Bush has not completely modeled his response after Clinton, who almost never missed an opportunity to show up on the scene of a disaster to express support and sympathy.

In stark contrast to Clinton, Bush has remained largely in the background, leaving public appearances to Allbaugh, a no-nonsense administrator whose gruff style has ruffled feathers and provoked negative headlines.

Allbaugh, who declined a request for an interview, angered residents of Davenport, Iowa, when he lectured them for not building a flood wall when the Mississippi River flooded their town earlier this year.

Last week, the FEMA director also came under fire for taking a $340,000 flight to Miami and Puerto Rico on a sophisticated aircraft designed solely for national emergencies.

A spokesman said Allbaugh acknowledged he should not have taken the flight but that the director’s staffers misled him.

Now Knight-Ridder profiles the homicidally incompetent current FEMA poobah Michael D. Brown:

From failed Republican congressional candidate to ousted “czar” of an Arabian horse association, there was little in Michael D. Brown’s background to prepare him for the fury of Hurricane Katrina.


“He’s done a hell of a job, because I’m not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm,” said Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief. “The world that this man operated in and the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience.”


“I wouldn’t have regarded his position in the horse industry as a platform to where he is now,” said Tom Connelly, a former association president.

Brown’s ticket to FEMA was Joe Allbaugh, President Bush’s 2000 campaign manager and an old friend of Brown’s in Oklahoma. When Bush ran for president in 2000, Brown was ending a rocky tenure at the horse association.

Brown told several association officials that if Bush were elected, he’d be in line for a good job.

In addition to hearing how we are all heartless bastards for politicizing THEIR disaster mismanagement, I am sure we will soon be hearing about how this was All Bill Clinton’s fault.

Update: I was wrong. High gas prices are now Hillary’s fault for not voting for ANWR. Wrong Clinton.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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