Former FEMA director Michael Brown, famously fired for mishandling Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, is criticizing President Obama for responding to Hurricane Sandy too quickly.
Yesterday, Brown told the Denver Westword, “One thing [Obama]’s gonna be asked is, why did he jump on this so quickly and go back to D.C. so quickly…”
According to Brown, Obama jumped the gun by holding his first Hurricane Sandy related press conference a full day before the disaster hit. “My guess is, he wants to get ahead of it—he doesn’t want anybody to accuse him of not being on top of it or not paying attention or playing politics in the middle of it,” he says. “He probably could’ve had a little more impact doing it today.”
Unfortunately Brown—better known as Brownie since President George W. Bush said, “You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie,” mere days before firing him in the wake of the botched Katrina response—may not be the most qualified person to offer advice.
Brown had almost no experience in emergency or disaster management before he joined the Federal Emergency Management Agency as general counsel in 2001. Prior to that he was a lawyer for the International Arabian Horse Association. His only experience in emergency management came at the beginning of his career in the 1970’s, when as an assistant to the city manager in Edmund, Ok., he may have overseen the emergency services division depending on who you ask.
Today Brown says he was the Bush administration’s scapegoat, and not really to blame for the failings of the FEMA response to Katrina, but it’s tough to blame him too much either way, given how poorly his career had prepared him to run an agency like FEMA.
Fortunately, our current FEMA administrator has a much more applicable resumé. President Obama picked Craig Fugate to run FEMA when he took office. Fugate is a Florida native with decades of experience in emergency management. He started his career as a volunteer firefighter, and eventually rose up to run the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
It’s early, but so far, the Obama administration appears to be handling the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts well. New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie had nothing but praise for the president and FEMA Tuesday morning.
In contrast to Obama’s quick response, is Mitt Romney’s lack of a response. Romney announced he would cancel campaign events in light of the storm, but held a “storm relief event
” in the same location with the same guest line-up. When asked at that event whether he would eliminate FEMA as president five separate times, he refused to respond.
A quick response sure seems better than no response at all.