Thursday, October 20, 2005

FEMA Face Feeding - Updated

(Free fake graphic)
Marty Bahamonde, the FEMA regional director who was first on the scene in New Orleans, testified today before a Senate panel that former FEMA director Michael Brown ignored his "frantic" and "regular" email messages "confirming the worst-case scenario that everyone had always talked about regarding New Orleans."

"I think there was a systematic failure at all levels of government to understand the magnitude of the situation," Bahamonde said.

One incident related to the hearing panel dramatically illustrates the rank incompetence of Brown and his aides:
[O]n Aug. 31, Bahamonde frantically e-mailed Brown to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours."

"Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical," Bahamonde wrote.

Less than three hours later, however, Brown's press secretary wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," wrote Brown aide Sharon Worthy.

"We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

Meanwhile, before a House committee it is being reported that Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff testified "he expected that Brown would understand that the priorities were to save lives, rescue people, get them food, water, medical assistance and shelter and would 'execute those priorities in an urgent fashion.'"

Chertoff didn't exactly overwhelm anyone with his own competence. While testifying, he manifested a fundamental misunderstanding of the breadth of his own powers as Secretary of Homeland Security to handle natural disasters. Only after a law professor who happened to be present "directly approached Chertoff at the witness table" and showed him the "National Response Plan" and a 2003 Presidential Directive did Chertoff admit that "he was the principal federal official" designated to handle catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina.

Chertoff's confusion and Brown's boundless Baton Rouge appetite left Connecticut congressman Christopher Shays "very uneasy that the Department of Homeland Security is dysfunctional."


The incomparable Billmon has a bitterly funny line about all this: "Would it have killed him to order take out?"

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