9/27/2005

Brown Shifts Blame for Katrina Response - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON - A combative Michael Brown blamed the Louisiana governor, the New Orleans mayor and even the Bush White House that appointed him for the dismal response to Hurricane Katrina in a fiery appearance Tuesday before Congress. In response, lawmakers alternately lambasted and mocked the former FEMA director.
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House members' scorching treatment of Brown, in a hearing stretching nearly 6 1/2 hours, underscored how he has become an emblem of the deaths, lingering floods and stranded survivors after the Aug. 29 storm. Brown resigned Sept. 12 after being relieved of his onsite command of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency's response effort three days earlier.

"I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shays (news, bio, voting record), R-Conn. "Because that kind of, you know, look in the lights like a deer tells me that you weren't capable to do the job."

"You get an F-minus in my book," said Rep. Gene Taylor (news, bio, voting record), D-Miss.

At several points, Brown turned red in the face and slapped the table in front of him.

"So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans," Brown said.

"What I wanted you to do is do your job and coordinate," Shays retorted.

Well aware of
President Bush's sunken poll ratings, legislators of both parties tried to distance themselves from the federal preparations for Katrina and the storm's aftermath that together claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Brown acknowledged making mistakes during the storm and subsequent flooding that devastated the Gulf Coast. But he accused New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, both Democrats, of fostering chaos and failing to order a mandatory evacuation more than a day before Katrina hit.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," Brown told a special panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe. Most Democrats, seeking an independent investigation, stayed away to protest what they called an unfair probe of the Republican administration by GOP lawmakers.

"I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together," Brown said. "I just couldn't pull that off."

Brown also said he warned Bush, White House chief of staff Andrew Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin that "this is going to be a bad one" in e-mails and phone conversations leading up to the storm. Under pointed questioning, he said some needs outlined to the White House,
Pentagon and
Homeland Security Department were not answered in "the timeline that we requested."

Blanco vehemently denied that she waited until the eve of the storm to order an evacuation of New Orleans. She said her order came on the morning of Aug. 27 — two days before the storm — resulting in 1.3 million people evacuating the city.

"Such falsehoods and misleading statements, made under oath before Congress, are shocking," Blanco said in a statement.

Brown Shifts Blame for Katrina Response - Yahoo! News

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