The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.
Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.
TMV then goes on to speculate about what this means about Chertoff and Bush and whether they were negligent, dumb, out-to-lunch, etc.
Hey, let's back up a second. Maybe I missed something, but wasn't the whole bitch-fest about Brown that he didn't do something he was (so we were told repeatedly) supposed to be doing? If so, then how can Brown have been supposed to be doing something which he had no authority to do?
This is the problem with hysteria. People kept screaming that this was the worst disaster in American history. It isn't, at least in terms of loss of life. The final terrible numbers are not in, but it seems they will be WAY below the 8,000 - 12,000 lost in the Galveston hurricane of 1900. Now, it may be the most expensive, but calling it that doesn't raise apprehension levels high enough I suppose. Because people got themselves so worked up about headlines that read "10,000 Dead" they felt they were justified in turning their minds off and taking it out on whoever they felt deserved it. The facts of the matter be damned.
It's too early to say anything definitively, but it might just be that Michael Brown was treated unfairly by the media and by most bloggers. A lot of them will excuse themselves by saying "Well, Brown shouldn't have had that job in the first place." That may be true, but it has nothing to do with evaluating his performance or excusing an hysterical witch-hunt.