September 7, 2005 -- The head of FEMA waited a mind-boggling five hours after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf before even contacting his boss about sending personnel to the area — then suggested workers be allowed two days to get to the ravaged region, shocking internal documents reveal.You don't think that's playing politics? Delaying action to ensure that you look good, and then wimping out by closing your memo with limp-dick niceties?
One stunning Aug. 29 memo — sent from embattled Federal Emergency Management chief Michael Brown to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff — called killer Katrina a "near-catastrophic event," but otherwise lacked any other urgent language underlining the potential magnitude of the disaster.
Brown then politely ended his memo with: "Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities."
In another note sent later to FEMA workers, Brown said one of their duties would essentially be to make the agency look good.
"Convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public," he wrote.
But they needed proper training before they could go out there, you say? One thousand firefighters gathered from Utah and throughout the United States assembled in Atlanta thinking they were going to be deployed to New Orleans to help out.
Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.
On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.
"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."
While FEMA's community-relations job may be an important one - displaced hurricane victims need basic services and a variety of resources - it may be a job best suited for someone else, say firefighters assembled at the Sheraton.
"It's a misallocation of resources. Completely," said the Texas firefighter.
"It's just an under-utilization of very talented people," said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote, who sent a team of firefighters to Atlanta. "I was hoping once they saw the level of people ... they would shift gears a little bit."Foote said his crews would be better used doing the jobs they are trained to do.
Still think the President made all the right moves?
Think Progress posts a timeline of the Katrina response. (Courtesy of No More Mister Nice Blog.) Levees are breaking all over the place, but Dubya, ever the multitasking politico, takes time out to share birthday cake with John McCain (I'm sure McCain would have understood if Dub couldn't make it), talk Medicare with some senior citizens in California, rock out with some country star, then flys back out to Crawford, Tex-ass to finish up his vacation. Lovely.
Again, I assert to you, oh nonbeliever, oh stalwart supporter of Idiot President’s agenda, that our nation’s leadership is misguided and ineffective and just downright unacceptable. (Courtesy of Paperwight’s Fair Shot.)
Brownie needs to be fired. Dubya needs to be impeached. FEMA needs to extract itself out of the Department of Homeland Security and become, once again, a cabinet position.