Friday, August 28, 2015

Last Call For Brownie Points

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans (and the Bush administration) former Bush FEMA Director Michael "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown is still trying to pin the blame for FEMA's ridiculous response to the storm on everyone but himself.

I’m often asked, as the person who was running FEMA when Hurricane Katrina hit, why I didn’t evacuate New Orleans. My response is simple—FEMA had no authority to do that under the Constitution, which clearly establishes a system of federalism in which state and local governments are autonomous governmental entities. We call first responders “first” for a reason. When you dial 9-1-1 your call isn’t answered by an operator at 500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C., 20472. Your call is answered by a local government entity that has first and primary responsibility for a disaster. 
Could FEMA have ordered the evacuation of New Orleans? Yes, had it waived posse comitatus and invoked the Insurrection Act, which Congress ultimately amended in 2006 to permit deployment of troops in response to natural disasters. That unprecedented action was actually contemplated days after landfall aboard Air Force One—and I advocated for it. After I advised the president to federalize the response, he sat with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Air Force One and outlined his plan. We immediately started drafting the federalization documents for the president’s signature, but Governor Blanco requested time to think it over and the president acquiesced. While the governor considered her options, the city became more and more dysfunctional. Blanco ultimately rejected the president’s plan, and political considerations eventually pushed the idea aside.

So again, FEMA could have evacuated the Ninth Ward but didn't because The Decider passed the buck.  So it's really Bush's fault.  Or Kathleen Blanco's fault.  But there's more!

Prior to Katrina making landfall, I asked then-National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield to forcefully explain on a secure video conference call with Blanco and Nagin the catastrophe they were potentially facing if they failed to evacuate at least two or three days prior to landfall. When that didn’t work, I called President Bush at the ranch and implored him to call Mayor Nagin and encourage him to evacuate his city. The president called; the mayor dallied. 
Nagin finally asked people to evacuate on Sunday morning for a storm that hit his city sometime after midnight that night. By that point, Amtrak had left the city with rail cars sans passengers. Airlines had evacuated Louis Armstrong International Airport with planes sans travelers. And school buses sat in their lots, soon to be flooded and ruined. The mayor’s incompetence cost lives.

So now it's Max Mayfield's fault for not convincing Ray Nagin to evacuate when FEMA could have done it but chose not to.  Two more people to add to the blameless Brownie's list.

The press was now on the hunt. Who is Michael Brown? Why does he have a nickname? Why is the president so uninformed about what’s really going on in Louisiana? 
As the media scrutiny increased, I faced another problem—chain of command. FEMA was part of the alphabet soup of agencies folded into the new Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Tom Ridge. But under the Stafford Act, which created FEMA and governed federal responses to disasters, FEMA’s director is to act “on behalf of the President of the United States.”

So now it's the press's fault.  Or Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's fault.  Brownie goes on and on for thousands of words in his screed, not taking a single ounce of responsibility for his massive screwup.  Of course, the real secret is everyone Brownie names is partially responsible for the deaths in New Orleans too: Bush, Nagin, Blanco, Mayfield, and more.

But Brown's attempt to absolve himself is comical to the point of being vulgar and repulsive.  He's just the man who was so utterly incompetent, he actually ended up being the one to take the blame.

Bitter Home Alabama

Republicans in Alabama are showing the rest of Red State America exactly how to go about keeping those undesirable black, Hispanic, poor, and elderly voters from ever being able to cast a ballot: simply pass one of the nation's toughest voter ID laws and require state-issued drivers licenses or ID cards to vote, and then close 90% of the state's drivers' license offices.

Alabama's chief law enforcement officer said Monday he will close all but the state's four largest drivers' license offices next year if state lawmakers don't provide more funding than they are proposing. 
Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier told a press conference in Scottsboro that budgets proposed in the Legislature's regular session are "unacceptable" and "unworkable." Lawmakers must do better in the upcoming second special session on the 2016 budget, he said. 
Collier heads the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), which was created in 2013 to merge the Department of Public Safety and 11 smaller policing agencies. His press conference was to rally support for Gov. Robert Bentley's proposed tax package as a second special session nears on Alabama's 2016 General Fund budget. State parks officials have scheduled their own press conference Tuesday near Joe Wheeler State Park. 
Collier said his agency received $55 million in state funding this year. Lawmakers have proposed $40 million for next year, and he wants level funding of $55 million. 
Without it, 33 part-time rural drivers' license offices will close Oct. 1, Collier said. More closures Jan. 1, 2016 will leave 12 offices statewide, and that number will drop to four on March 1 – one each in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile. 
That means an estimated 40,000 people a year will funnel to four offices for new drivers licenses and examinations, Alabama licenses for new residents moving from other states, and renewal of licenses after suspensions, department leaders said
Regular license renewal can now be done on line. Collier said that is one of several improvements the state has made to the process, including online examination scheduling, self-serve kiosks, and digital licenses for cell phones. But first licenses and examinations must be done in person, and properly licensing drivers who will be on Alabama roads is a public safety issue, he said. Public safety, he said, is the state's No. 1 responsibility.

Ahh, but let's recall that this means Alabama citizens who want to get a drivers' license or state issue ID ahead of the 2016 election will only be able to go to four offices in the entire state to get one starting in March.

And of course, this is the plan.  If you need a renewal, you can do it online.  But if you're new to the state or getting a voter ID, good luck.  These closings will end up disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters.

The Iran Deal Looks Like A Done Deal

It's looking more and more like President Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran and other global partners is a done deal, and that there are now enough Democratic votes to kill the Republican plan to scrap it, but will there be enough to prevent the President from having to veto it at all?

President Barack Obama’s almost certain to get the Iran nuclear deal through Congress — but whether he gets there by filibuster or sustained veto could make all the difference. 
A Democratic filibuster in the Senate would be a clear victory for the president, allowing Obama to say that for all the political noise there wasn’t enough actual opposition to the nuclear agreement with the Islamic republic to even get to a final vote. 
Having to save the deal with a veto (just the fifth of his presidency) and relying on liberals in the House and Senate to sustain it would be much more trouble: a procedural pull across the finish line that sows more doubts in a public already skeptical of the deal, leaves international partners worried about America’s long-term commitment and adds weeks of added time and tangles. 
The White House very much prefers option A. And even before he came out publicly for the deal on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been in frequent contact with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to try to make that happen.

The numbers are tight: They’ll need 12 of the remaining 15 undecided Senate Democrats to go Obama’s way, along with the 29 already there. 
Obama, White House aides and Senate minority whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — who’s been running the unofficial Iran vote-counting operation — have been scrambling to lock down the remaining votes to get 41 Democrats to stick with the president. 
Those who are students of the process know that the president has the last word,” Durbin said. “I’d like to win it earlier.”

We'll see where undecided Democrats like Cory Booker, Barb Mikulski, Ben Cardin, Mark Warner and Chris Coons go with this.  Getting 12 of the 15 will be an issue, especially Warner, Cardin, and Coons.

We'll see where this goes, but considering the sheer number of times Senate Dems have screwed President Obama over, my money is on him having to take the veto option in the end.


Related Posts with Thumbnails