Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Michael Brown Demotion

Michael Brown is a likable man according to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. But according to the Senator, his role as FEMA director is simply above his abilities. And after Homeland Security head, Michael Chertoff, informed Mr. Bush of his decision, Michael Brown was demoted as head of Katrina disaster response. This was absolutely the right decision.

Ita was reported by Time magazine that Michael Brown had padded his resume, where he claimed to be a director of disaster response. Yet it turns out that Michael Brown was only an intern in a small city agency of 40,000, and not the director of the program by any stretch of reason. Other than this exaggeration of his background of skills and abilities, Michael Brown's chief qualification for the FEMA post were that he was a personal friend of Mr. Bush, and also that Brown was the head of the International Arabian Horse Association. Unfortunately this ability to judge the quality of horses has no skills that present themselves as a qualification for the role as FEMA head.

The Bush Administration has awarded many posts to friends or major political contibutors. Some members of the Bush Rangers and Bush Pioneers who donated $100,000 or more were awarded ambassadorships to foreign states. But this is hardly a good pool of talent to tap for the best qualified officials for important decisions. And Michael Brown's limited skills were apparent during times when critical decisions had to be made about disaster response, and the skills of Michael Brown came up short.

In January of 1977, President Carter tried to appoint many of his best friends to positions such as banker Bert Lance, who quickly ran into political trouble. This group of Carter friends were nicknamed the "Georgia Mafia" by the media, and seemed to be wholly unable to respond to major issues during the Carter Administration which included the Iranian hostage crisis, the continued energy crisis, and a severe economic downturn. The Nation magazine even referred to economic advisor Alfred Khan's major achievement as growing a mustache during his tenure as main economic policy architect. When Republican Presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, asked the American public " are you better off now than four years ago?", it spelled the end of the Carter government comprised heavily of friends in major positions of power rather than the most qualified persons. The Bush Administration can learn much from this harsh lesson. If you use government as a place to appoint your friends rather than the most qualified persons, then when geniune challenges come, you cannot respond all that well to them.

Michael Chertoff is a well qualified professional. He made the right decision to appeal to Bush to demote Michael Brown's role as FEMA response head to the Katrina crisis, which is considered by 93% of Americans to be the nation's worst natural disaster ever. A government comprised of friends or major political contributors rather than professionals is not what America needs, and Chertoff at least has enough influence and respect by Bush that his important decision was respected and trusted and actually acted on.


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