Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Here's one you'll want to read. Juliette Kayyem unearths and examines the grueling 42 minute confirmation hearing then-chairman Joe Lieberman put our guy Michael Brown through when he was appointed Deputy Director of FEMA in 2002.

The Times has a piece tomorrow about the back and forth between Blanco and the White House around the time of the Katrina's landfall. A look at the sourcing suggests it comes mainly, though not exclusively, from administration sources from DOJ, DOD, DHS and the White House. Despite that, it really doesn't put things in a particularly good light.

I'm still not completely clear from reading the article precisely what the ins-and-outs were of how or why the president would have needed to invoke the Insurrection Act (see the article). I got the sense from the article that by the time lawlessness really started breaking out, the White House wanted to run the whole show or basically not get involved.

Whether that's true or not, the whole process seemed to amount to a lot of not-particularly-urgent brainstorming about how federal law and state control over the Guard would interact, how the Governor would react, what the politics would be -- basically a lot of thumb-twiddling by mid-level appointees while the whole situation spun out of control. And I don't see how you could read the piece and not think: why weren't any of these questions hashed out in advance?

Assuming the key points in the story are accurate, you can sorta see how one development led to another, and so forth. But the big picture just seems like these guys didn't have their act together.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what it seemed like in real time.

And one other point. A short way into the piece there's this graf ...

The debate began after officials realized that Hurricane Katrina had exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated.

That's quite a flaw when you consider that most of the really bad terrorist scenarios would almost by definition knock out local first responders. A dirty bomb? A small nuclear device? A bioweapons attack? Several hundred first responders were killed on 9/11. And the only reason New York City's police and fire departments remained functional is that, for all its horror, the 9/11 attacks were highly localized in one section of downtown Manhattan.

We've heard for four years how we're in a war on terror, how we live in a new world where the nexus of fanaticism and technology can inflict unimaginable horrors on us in our very cities. And they never figured anything could happen bad enough that it might knock the cops and fire departments off the feet for a day or so?

Time finds what it really, really charitably calls 'discrepancies' in FEMA Chief Michael Brown's resume. Like when he served as "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight" in Edmond, Okla.? Okay, he was an intern (title=administrative assistant) there while he was in college. Or about his position as "Outstanding Political Science Professor [at] Central State University." The school says he never taught there. He's been a director at the Oklahoma Christian Home since 1983. Only no one there's ever heard of him.

You can't make this stuff up. Or, I guess, maybe that's not the best line in this case.

The chick governor excuse. From tomorrow's Times ...

Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.

More here.

I'm told tomorrow's Congress Daily says Tom DeLay has now acknowledged he met voluntarily last month with Travis County DA Ronnie Earle about the TRMPAC case.

TPM Media LLC (yes, we actually have a fancy name) is looking for an ad rep to sell ad space at Talking Points Memo and TPMCafe. If you're interested, send an email inquiry to our comments email address. And put the words 'Ad Rep' in the subject line.

A few things Democrats should stand for and stand up for now.

An independent commission to investigate the preparations for and response to hurricane Katrina at all levels of government. Anything else is just an elaborate cover-up.

An independent, time-limited, publicly-chartered corporation to oversee the reconstruction of the Katrina-devastated regions. Secrecy is an invitation to cronyism and public corruption. Only openness and transparency can prevent the theft and waste of public money on a massive scale.

We've spent the first half of this decade awash in a bath of ideological zeal and public corruption. Democrats say they're for reform, so be for reform. Competent, professional management; hiring and contracting on the basis of expertise and value; openness to public scrutiny at all levels.

We can't afford another CPA.

The 9/11 chairs on what Katrina means ...

"There was nobody in charge," observed Kean, who said the Bush administration should now require states to establish clear chains of command for disaster situations in exchange for federal security dollars.

"There have got to be clear lines of authority because if there isn't somebody in charge, it costs lives. It cost a lot of lives in New Orleans," he added.

Kean said the Department of Homeland Security, a sprawling bureaucracy set up after the 2001 attacks, failed to produce two mandated risk assessments to U.S. transportation and infrastructure including levees such as the ones that failed after Katrina, swamping New Orleans.

"One report was due April 1. The other was due in early summer. Neither report has been done," he said. Homeland Security officials were not immediately available to comment.

Kean and Hamilton both said communications problems occurred between New Orleans emergency crews because of congressional failure to give first-responders nationwide their own segment of the U.S. broadcasting band.

"It is a glaring error four years after 9/11. Still exists. Not resolved. There are bills pending in Congress but they're far from enactment," Hamilton said.

Read <$NoAd$> the rest.

This just seems amazingly misguided. And I don't understand why more is not being made of it.

Fully $50 billion of those recovery and reconstruction funds passed by Congress today are going to FEMA. FEMA is going to administer those funds. That is just friggin' crazy.

Even if FEMA were still a model government agency, as it was by most accounts in the 1990s, this would still be a really, really bad decision. As the title says, FEMA is an emergency management agency, not a reconstruction agency. It doesn't have the organizational structure or competence to run the economy of a significant chunk of the United States for the foreseeable future, which is what this amounts to.

In the ten "Principles of Reconstruction" he posted yesterday at TPMCafe, Reed Hundt had these as #6 and #7 ...

6. Don't confuse reconstruction with emergency relief. Whatever reforms are necessary at DHS, it is clear that DHS should have nothing to do with reconstruction because its mission is to protect the rest of America from the next calamities and to provide emergency relief when necessary.

7. Don't build a permanent reconstruction bureaucracy. Every reconstruction agency or authority should be managed by real managers, not political appointees, and should go out of business when the work is done.

Both of these are just right. And principle six applies to FEMA every bit as much as it does to DHS.

And all that of course would all apply if FEMA were a well-run agency. But obviously, it's not. It's currently run by a crew of political hacks. The agency itself -- if its recent performance is any example -- is in deep disarray. It's become thoroughly politicized. And there are already very credible claims that it has used its disaster relief funds to advance narrowly political agendas. And then add on top of that what we've seen this administration do with the contracting mess in Iraq. Contracting cronyism defines this administration. And we're giving $50 billion to one of its most cronyfied outposts.

This is a fiscal disaster waiting to happen, a truly terrible idea.