Tuesday, February 14, 2006

You Can't Blame Us For Stuff We Can't Do Anyway

Apparently certain members of the press and Congress didn't get the message sent by vice president Cheney (Motto: Is this thing loaded?) The Bush administration whined and stomped their feet at Katrina-response criticism leveled by ex-disaster Michael Brown and the few remaining rational congressional investigators.

"The vice president is on his way back to Washington," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "I can have him here in less than an hour for those of you who might be feeling particularly bullet proof."

His remarks came as a Republican-written House report blamed government-wide ineptitude for mishandling Hurricane Katrina relief. A report by Congress' investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office reached similar conclusions.

"First of all, I reject outright the suggestion that President Bush was anything less than fully sober," said White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend. OK, maybe not fully sober, but he did his best Merle Haggard impersonation for the victims. It brought down the house at the White House Christmas party last year."

Both spoke at a conference of state emergency management directors in suburban Alexandria, Virginia. Their talk was titled "What Not To Do In An Emergency And How Not To Take The Blame For It."

Both Townsend and Chertoff drew mustaches, horns and blacked out teeth on pictures of Brown, who resigned under pressure as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "That guy is an idiot," Chertoff said. "I don't know how he ever got hired. Whoever hired him is an idiot." When told the president had recommended Brown, Chertoff said his remarks had been taken "out of context."

Brown testified before a Senate committee that he issued repeated warnings to the White House and DHS the day the hurricane struck that levees had failed and New Orleans was seriously flooding. "As soon as I got back from dinner and got the maid service up to my room to pick up my dry cleaning, I called somebody in Washington and told them there was a real bad storm going on, but not to worry because I was OK."

He suggested that the White House and DHS were "poopy heads." Bush and other federal officials have said they did not know until an aide saw it on the news that levees had been breached. "The aide was getting ready to tape Wheel of Fortune. That's the president's favorite show, and he happened across a news broadcast," said an White House staffer.

"There is no place for a lone ranger in emergency management," said Chertoff, whose Department of Homeland Security is FEMA's parent agency.

"For Secretary Chertoff to claim that I am the Lone Ranger is so old school. Every one knows I'm Batman," Brown said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Townsend, without naming names, but using hand puppets, criticized those at FEMA she said had "become bitter" and lashed out "trying to find someone else, anyone else, to blame. They cannot attempt to rewrite history by pointing fingers or laying blame on us, so we're pointing fingers at Brown and laying blame on him. It rolls downhill Brownie. Get used to it."

While both Chertoff and Townsend acknowledged that the federal response was so inept it would have embarrassed the government of a third world country, both suggested federal officials up to Bush had been unfairly criticized. "What do you people want from us?" Townsend asked. "It's not like we have any training or expertise in this stuff. Plus I've got just five more years to go before retirement."

Bush, who was traveling in Arizona and California the day the storm roared ashore, was "highly engaged," Townsend said. "True he was highly engaged in a computer game, but that's just because we've found it's easier if we don't let him make decisions."

Chertoff announced wide-ranging changes to FEMA. "We're all going to watch the news every night. And not just the sports this time either. Plus I heard about this organization called the National Weather Service. I think I'm going to ask them to send me some reports or something."

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