After violent storms slammed three mid-western states and claimed 14 lives yesterday, President Obama announced he would be returning from his long-planned European trip to visit Missouri on Sunday. But that wasn’t good enough for Michael Brown, the FEMA director during Hurricane Katrina who is widely blamed for the Bush administration’s incompetent handling of the crisis that left tens of thousands of New Orleans residents stranded and helpless.
Brown, whose prior experience included working for the International Arabian Horse Association, resigned in disgrace amid a public uproar when it came to light that he had virtually no experience in disaster response — but only after President Bush famously patted him on the back in front of TV cameras, telling him, “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.” At least 1,836 people died as a result of the worst natural disaster in modern American history, many because FEMA help did not come quickly enough. As the nation reeled at images of the devastation, Brown tried to blame the victims themselves “by noting that the crisis was worsened by New Orleans residents who did not comply with a mandatory evacuation order.”
Yet Brown evidently thinks he has the moral authority to condemn Obama’s handling of the tornado disaster. In an interview with Fox New’s Neil Cavuto, Brown blasted Obama for “playing ping-pong” while people died and “being more concerned with toasting the Queen” than taking care of tornado victims:
BROWN: In this situation, they’re almost tone-deaf. I mean, you stop and think about it, your press office should be recognizing that the visuals that Americans are seeing is of this devastation. Don’t put a visual of the president up playing ping-pong. It’s awful.
CAVUTO: So you don’t have a problem with the president being abroad with the Queen and the Irish prime minster just doing fun stuff?
BROWN: No, I do have a problem with that. It’s not like he’s at a G8 summit. This is not a diplomatic trip of any sort. This is just a — he went to Ireland for God’s sake to visit relatives! It’s time to come home…in this case, the perception is that the president is detached. He’s more concerned about raising a toast to the Queen. People have died.
Even Republicans think Brown’s characterization is way off. Missouri Rep. Billy Long (R) said, “FEMA has been great. The FEMA White House liaison called me first thing this morning and said, ‘Whatever you need, you will have.’ And the FEMA’s been here working, and we’re just gonna fight back and help these people down here in any way possible…the federal government has pledged that.”
This is not the first time Brown, who is now a highly-paid “crisis management expert” in the private sector, has had the audacity to criticize Obama for his disaster response. During the BP Gulf oil spill, Brown went on Fox to accuse the president of intentionally letting the spill get worse so he could use it as an excuse to shut down offshore drilling.
Brown has written a revisionist history about the Katrina disaster in which he chastises his former boss for (as he says in the Fox interview) “throwing him under the bus,” and blames Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, and pretty much everyone besides himself for the administration’s bungled response.