Cali Fires: After Hurrican Katrina FEMA Still Drops the Ball

Source: SFGate.com :: The narrative being spun by the White House – and seemingly adopted by the national media – is that the Bush administration learned from its mistakes after Hurricane Katrina and did a much better job responding to the San Diego wildfires.

Not so fast. It’s true that President Bush was on the ground much quicker here in Southern California than on the Gulf Coast. Bush promised federal aid and government loans and assured Californians: “We will help you put out the fires, get through the crisis, and rebuild your lives.” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was here even sooner, laying the groundwork for the president’s visit and helping coordinate the federal response to the crisis.

But at least in the chaos that followed Katrina, there were no fake reporters asking phony questions at a bogus news conference. That’s what happened last week at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., where officials posing as reporters lobbed softball questions at Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson, FEMA’s deputy administrator, including this toughie: “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?”

One person who isn’t happy right about now is Chertoff, who bluntly called the stunt “one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I’ve seen since I’ve been in government.”

Chertoff himself has done what looks like some pretty dumb and inappropriate things when he finds himself under pressure while responding to natural disasters. At the top of the list: clumsily trying to shift the blame away from his department and toward state and local officials, or even his own staff such as the much-ridiculed former FEMA chief Mike Brown, who took the fall for the Katrina fiasco.

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Filed under katrina, news, politics, washington dc

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