Sep 27 2005
I see MacRanger and I find ourselves on the same side of an issue again. I couldn’t be in better company.
Seems Powerline is joining us who see no value in pretending FEMA was (a) something it wasn’t and (b) listening to armchair pretend experts.
I have found the need by pundits, left and right, to jump on Michael Brown as the reason the Katrina response was ‘not adequate’ to be the the epitomy of arrogance. I site this statement from the recent hearings with Michael Brown as a warning to armchair critiques acting as if they are instant experts:
“I’ve overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I’m doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it,” he said.
To Congress, media and bloggers alike – if you want my respect on this subject you better come equipped with some hands on experience of your own. Armchairing is easy – so easy it becomes an addiction. I fear to be struck with this affliction constantly. In his NY Times interview he mentioned one day where he gave directions and then set out to survey the situation first hand. The survey is necessary so he can comprehend the scope of the situation, the layout of where problems lie and access points, etc. He returns to find what he wanted done not done. Somehow this is Brown’s fault???
Mr. Brown passed the list on to the state emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, but when he returned that evening he was surprised to find that nothing had been done.
“I am just screaming at my F.C.O., ‘Where are the helicopters?'” he recalled. “‘Where is the National Guard? Where is all the stuff that the mayor wanted?'”
For some reason Michelle left out the part about what he was doing during that time. Why? Who knows. But it is important for context. The scope of destruction from Katrina covered an area the size of Great Britain! Do you think you can survey the situation by helicopter in a single day when you are dealing with an impact zone that large?
I have no doubt he was screaming at his FCO. I would be too. Also we have this comment:
When he arrived in Baton Rouge on Sunday evening, Mr. Brown said, he was concerned about the lack of coordinated response from Governor Blanco and Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.
“What do you need? Help me help you,” Mr. Brown said he asked them. “The response was like, ‘Let us find out,’ and then I never received specific requests for specific things that needed doing.”
This incident does not inspire confidence that FEMA would have been able to fulfill Blanco’s requests had she produced the itemized list that Brown says FEMA required.
Pure, unadulterated and biased speculation. This incident proves nothing of the kind. We do know quite a few things:
(1) Blanco withheld Red Cross supplies to the Superdome before and after the storm hit – fearing enticements for people to stay there. A decision she never rescinded once the levies failed a few hours afterwards.
(2) Nagin did not use his buses to transport people from the Superdome to safety, for whatever dumb reason he can think of. A decision he did not reverse once the levies broke.
(3) Nagin and Blanco did not follow their disaster plans.
You cannot blame FEMA for coming in expecting to execute Plan A and then be stumped when Plan A is not being executed and Nagin and Blanco are ‘winging it’. FEMA needs direction where to place resources. That is why they ‘coordinate’ resources for the state. The state cannot call on these resources, but FEMA can. But what is someone to do when the local officials are making political decisions instead of running a response plan?
Hindsight is wonderful, but scapegoating with hindsight is disgusting. So while so many stick their noses up at Brown for not being experienced enough, I remind them he is much more qualified than they are on this subject. He is more qualified than I am.
It reminds me of when Wolf Blitzer was trying to pull off one of those classic media ‘gotcha’ moments by asking a responder why they were not bringing in the large wildfire planes and helicopters to deal with the fires in downtown New Orleans. The question was dripping with the arrogance of a pretend expert. The real expert looked pained as he explained the amount of water those systems delivered was enough to crush a group of houses and possibly kill people nearby.
I think all pundits should tread lightly when they are discussing something outside their field of expertise. Listening to some people on this subject sounds like auto mechanics lecturing doctors on medicine. If you think I exaggerate here is the Blanco Administration response:
In Baton Rouge, La., Blanco’s press secretary, Denise Bottcher, ridiculed Brown’s line of attack. “Mike Brown wasn’t engaged then, and he surely isn’t now. He should have been watching CNN instead of the Disney Channel,” Bottcher said.
How pathetically childish. How illuminating as well. They have no response to the obvious fact Blanco made mistakes. We know she did. They just get down and dirty. Since they cannot handle a little criticism professionally, what makes anyone think they could handle the largest national disaster our country ever faced?
BTW, the FEMA response to Katrina was the best response in history. It moved more material, to more places, quicker than at any time prior. That was Michael Brown’s responsibility.