MICHAEL BROWN: FEMA’s nimble. We’re only 2,500 people. We can move on a dime.
STEPHEN COLBERT: Uh-huh. And what dime were you standing on during the hurricane?
— From Brown's 2006 appearance on The Colbert Report
People are still saying now, as they said then, that what went wrong in New Orleans a decade ago was all my fault. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. There were many dark moments in those three weeks on the Gulf Coast, and FEMA and the federal government certainly made some mistakes, but perhaps the worst part was being held responsible for the things that I didn’t control at all.If you've heard Brownie revise history over the years, there's little new here, except a new chorus of blaming the media (of which, it should be pointed out, he's now a member). "My mishandling of the press during the disaster response was among my greatest mistakes," he writes, citing CNN's Anderson Cooper and Time magazine as two of the worst offenders.
Today government needs to affirmatively reassert its commitment to the all-hazards approach to disasters. Whether a disaster is man-made, natural or the result of terrorism, the response is the same. And the federal government must not become a first responder. The more state and local governments become dependent upon federal dollars, the weaker and more dependent upon the federal government they will become.Those who want more Brownie on Brownie can listen to his talk show Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. New Orleans time, where he promises more hot takes and hard truths.
Why is that important? Disasters happen every day. The federal government should be involved only in those disasters that are beyond the capacity of state and local governments to handle. Centralized disaster response at the national level would destroy the inherent close relationship between citizens and those who save their lives and protect their property in times of everyday disasters. We must not allow that to happen.