12 September 2005

The Secretary of DHS: now let's begin analyzing the Blame gain, fact vs. spin.

The Secretary of DHS: Michael Chertoff
  • For all his gross and widespread failures, Brown has in some ways been a scapegoat for the incompetence of the White House.
  • As head of FEMA, Brown is just a second-tier manager in the nation's second largest Cabinet agency, the sprawling Department of Homeland Security. From the moment he declared Katrina "an incident of national significance" -- a lonh 36 hours after landfall -- the man in charge of the federal response was Brown's boss, DHS Secretary Chertoff.
  • A former federal judge, prosecutor and chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, Chertoff may have brought more impressive credentials to his job, but he has often seemed no less out of touch with the reality on the ground in New Orleans.
  • On Aug. 31 he declared himself "extremely pleased" with the federal response to Katrina. In a conference call the next day with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and five congressional leaders, when chaos and despair reigned in New Orleans, Chertoff insisted things weren't going as badly as media reports suggested, adding that he had spoken to local law-enforcement officials in the past hour. "Not that bad?" asked Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, "Turn on your TV!"
  • Chertoff first learned --from an NPR anchor in Washington -- that there were thousands of people stranded, starving and in some cases dying in the New Orleans Convention Center, a story that had been all over the media that morning.
  • Chertoff suggested reporters were exaggerating. "If you talk to someone and you get a rumor or you get someone's anecdotal version of something," he said, "I think it's dangerous to extrapolate it to all over the place."
  • Demonstrating the kind of tenacious dedication to a line of argument that made him a successful Mob prosecutor, Chertoff reprised the same theme last week in a briefing with House members on Capitol Hill, insisting that the federal response had been far better than advertised. He was telling politicians to believe the Administration rather than their own eyes. Some walked out of the briefing in disgust. "He's a great lawyer, very smart," a G.O.P. Senate aide says of Chertoff. "But he's a lousy politician and administrator."
  • FEMA was just 1 of 23 agencies folded into the massive new DHS, with its 181,000 employees and $40 billion annual budget. Nothing like Bush creating more big government with less effectiveness at responding.
  • This department has been slow to respond to any disaster according to the Governor's association. Such things as raging forest fires in the West and other hurricanes such as Floridas last year. You would think that Jeb Bush would have mentioned something at a family dinner.
  • When Chertoff was nominated, Bush called him "a key leader in the war on terror." Guess national and natural disaster didn't rank very high.

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