AP noted criticism of Nagin and Brown for failed Katrina response, but not Chertoff

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

Despite noting that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was "widely criticized in 2005 for not evacuating his city before [Hurricane] Katrina" and that former FEMA director Michael Brown "was forced to resign shortly after the storm as the extent of the agency's failings became clear," an AP article that quoted DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff describing government efforts to prepare for Hurricane Gustav did not note that two congressional reports on the federal response to Hurricane Katrina specifically faulted Chertoff.

An August 29 Associated Press article noted that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was "widely criticized in 2005 for not evacuating his city before [Hurricane] Katrina" and that former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael Brown "was forced to resign shortly after the storm as the extent of the agency's failings became clear." However, while the article quoted Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, describing government efforts to prepare for Hurricane Gustav, it did not note that two congressional reports on the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina specifically faulted Chertoff, including his decision to appoint Brown to implement the federal response plan.

As Media Matters for America has documented, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs issued a report in May 2006 that concluded Chertoff's agency "failed to lead an effective federal response to Hurricane Katrina" and listed specific steps Chertoff failed to take both before and after the storm. The report noted that "Secretary Chertoff failed to make ready the full range of federal assets pursuant to DHS's responsibilities under the National Response Plan (NRP)" and "failed to appoint a Principal Federal Official (PFO), the official charged with overseeing the federal response under the NRP, until 36 hours after landfall." Brown, the PFO that Chertoff eventually chose, "was hostile to the federal government's agreed-upon response plan and therefore was unlikely to perform effectively in accordance with its principles." Moreover, the Senate report stated, "Even when appointed PFO, Brown remained the Director of FEMA, an apparent violation of the NRP's requirement that a PFO not be ' "dual hatted" with any other roles or responsibilities that could detract from their overall incident-management responsibilities.' "

Similarly, the House of Representatives' Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, which released its final report on February 15, 2006, found that "critical elements of the National Response Plan," parts of which Chertoff was responsible for, "were executed late, ineffectively, or not at all." The report also asserted that "DHS and the states were not prepared for" Katrina.

The AP article quoted Chertoff saying of government preparedness for Hurricane Gustav: "What you're going to see is the product of three years of planning, training and exercising at all levels of government, starting with the local and the state level and leading up to the federal level. So we're clearly better prepared."

From the August 29 AP article:

"What you're going to see is the product of three years of planning, training and exercising at all levels of government, starting with the local and the state level and leading up to the federal level. So we're clearly better prepared," the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff said Friday on "Good Morning America" on ABC television. He was interviewed from New Orleans where he was coordinating storm preparation efforts.

The administration of President George W. Bush is in regular contact with Bobby Jindal - the Republican governor of Louisiana, and Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans. Jindal has said he will skip the convention because of the storm. Nagin, widely criticized in 2005 for not evacuating his city before Katrina, left the Democratic National Convention early to return home.

[...]

But Witt's previous boss, former President Bill Clinton, drew Democrats' attention to the administration's Katrina failures when he spoke Wednesday at the convention.

"What about Katrina and cronyism?" Clinton said, a remark that was followed by a chorus of "boos" from the crowd. "My fellow Democrats, America can do better than that."

Clinton was referring to a Bush appointee, Michael Brown, who led the agency during Katrina. Brown was forced to resign shortly after the storm as the extent of the agency's failings became clear.

Brown -- best remembered for Bush's comment, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job!" - is prepared for many "Brownie" jokes in the coming days as Katrina and hurricane response make their way back into the news.

Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Stories/Interests
Hurricane Katrina, Natural Disasters
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