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Friday, August 25, 2006

42 minutes of shame

In honor of the one year anniversary of Katrina, lets look back at the person who presided over the 2002 Senate confirmation hearings for Michael Brown and who was the biggest cheerleader for Deputy Director of FEMA Michael Brown.

First, lets read the Hartford Courant piece from my post from last September.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency appeared before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, then chaired by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., when he was nominated as the agency's deputy director. The polite 42-minute hearing attracted only four senators, and before it was over, Lieberman offered his support.

Since Katrina struck last month, Brown has been under fire - and the target of angry Democrats who want him to resign - because of his performance in getting aid to storm victims.

His resume has also been questioned. Time Magazine reported Thursday that Brown's FEMA biography says his previous emergency management experience was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight."

But when Brown was an assistant to the city manager of Edmond, Okla., in the late 1970s, he was "more like an intern," with no supervisory authority, Time said.

Brown, who is being replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, is not resigning, and administration officials maintain they are not dissatisfied with him.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters Brown "has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge," the Associated Press reported.

But bloggers on Friday suggested that Lieberman could have learned three years ago that Brown might not be up to such a task. An online debate began late Thursday when Juliette N. Kayyem, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, posted an account of Brown's June 19, 2002, confirmation hearing.

Titled "42 Minutes of Shame," she described how "Mike Brown suffered 42 breathtaking minutes of serious nothingness (unless Lieberman's withering questioning regarding whether Brown would sufficiently keep the Senate informed - duh, yes) to become deputy director of FEMA."

The posting triggered a barrage of comments from bloggers pro and con. Lieberman said Friday in an interview that while "you can always look back," the hearing "was very much like most hearings for nominees at that level."

At the time, Brown, an Oklahoma attorney, was general counsel at FEMA. He got the same kind of quick hearing given to most people nominated to such second-tier posts. Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., introduced Brown and talked about how FEMA helped with recent wildfires in his state.

Brown, Campbell said, had been there "steadfastly and tenaciously" to help. Before Brown began speaking, Lieberman told him, "Mr. Brown, you're off to a good start. Two strong statements of endorsement."

Lieberman talked about FEMA's expanding role, how the disaster relief agency has "got to prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks at home." He quizzed Brown about whether the new mission would find FEMA continuing to maintain its network of strong contacts with state and local officials.

"We've already started down that path," Brown said. "Our partnership has to be with all agencies responding to disasters, all first responders."

Lieberman told him, "That's a good answer."

He spent 8 minutes asking Brown a series of questions, including one on chemical and biological preparedness. "Regardless of the cause of the disaster," Brown assured him, "our response is the same."

Later in the hearing, Lieberman returned for a new round of questions, notably one about preparedness in Connecticut in case of a disaster at a nuclear facility.

Brown said FEMA's role was "a very serious one," and he pledged to look closely at evacuation plans to make sure they were adequate.

Such replies were adequate for Lieberman, who told Brown at the end of the hearing, "I certainly will support your nomination."
So there was the man who would carry the water through the desert for the President, Joe Lieberman taking a full 42 minutes out of his busy schedule to question a guy whoes resume who so padded with crap that the reporters at TIME magazine discovered the lies in a matter of nanoseconds.

Lets take a look at the information on Brown's resume that Joe somehow "missed".
Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him." Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. "Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

[...]

Brown's lack of experience in emergency management isn't the only apparent bit of padding on his resume, which raises questions about how rigorously the White House vetted him before putting him in charge of FEMA. Under the "honors and awards" section of his profile at FindLaw.com — which is information on the legal website provided by lawyers or their offices—he lists "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University". However, Brown "wasn't a professor here, he was only a student here," says Charles Johnson, News Bureau Director in the University Relations office at the University of Central Oklahoma (formerly named Central State University). "He may have been an adjunct instructor," says Johnson, but that title is very different from that of "professor." Carl Reherman, a former political science professor at the University through the '70s and '80s, says that Brown "was not on the faculty." As for the honor of "Outstanding Political Science Professor," Johnson says, "I spoke with the department chair yesterday and he's not aware of it." Johnson could not confirm that Brown made the Dean's list or was an "Outstanding Political Science Senior," as is stated on his online profile.

[...]

Under the heading of "Professional Associations and Memberships" on FindLaw, Brown states that from 1983 to the present he has been director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home in Edmond. But an administrator with the Home told TIME that Brown is "not a person that anyone here is familiar with." She says there was a board of directors until a couple of years ago, but she couldn't find anyone who recalled him being on it. According to FEMA's Andrews, Brown said "he's never claimed to be the director of the home. He was on the board of directors, or governors of the nursing home." However, a veteran employee at the center since 1981 says Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."
But reading my old posts doesn't do this enough justice. Let's go back to the actual transcript (if you like, you can download the transcript from here) and Juliette Kayyem's now famous post from TPM Cafe to feel the full effect of Joementum's pathetic role in confirming an idiot to run FEMA.

Well, I just finished reading the confirmation hearings for Mike Brown's appointment to be Deputy Director of FEMA (his previous title). 42 minutes of shame (led by Senator Lieberman as he chaired the Committee on Governmental Affairs when the Democrats were in charge in 2002).

This hearing, in June 2002, was just before the official enactment of the Department of Homeland Security. So everyone knew that FEMA was likely to be subsumed, but it wasn't law yet. In the statute that eventually created the Department of Homeland Security, Section 803, Subsection (d)(2), Congress allowed for previously Senate-confirmed officers "appointed to fill new offices in the Department whose duties are germane to their original offices may be appointed without undergoing an additional confirmation proceeding."

It appears, then, that Mike Brown suffered 42 breathtaking minutes of serious nothingness (unless Lieberman's withering questioning regarding whether Brown would sufficiently keep the Senate informed --- duh,yes) to become Deputy Director of FEMA. When FEMA was, just a few months later, subsumed into DHS, Brown didn't need to be Senate confirmed as his new position -- technically as Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response -- was "germane" to his old position. Guess that's true. But it means that the four Senators who showed up to confirm a deputy director were, in fact, confirming the head of America's entire emergency management apparatus.

Worse, still, besides Brown's obvious lack of qualifications, is the obvious lack of any serious questions about previous disasters, what would he do in a future disaster, his thoughts -- if he had any -- on what should be done.

[...]

Mike Brown didn't appear from Mars. He was appointed by the President (shame on him) and confirmed by Congress (shame on them.) And 42 minutes later, Brown was in charge.

Remember, Joe Leiberman was the Chair of the Committee on Government Affairs when this all happened and he gave the green light to Brown because it was Bush's choice. Never forget that when you see what his actions caused when we re-examine the screw-up in New Orleans over the next week.

42 minutes.