Bush administration cronyism and incompetence

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The matter of Bush administration cronyism and incompetence was brought to the fore due to the colossal failure of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to properly handle relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina in an effective and timely manner.

As one blogger wrote September 12, 2005: "So we have Bush hiring cronies who hire even more cronies. And this happening even after Bush has been criticized openly for cronyism. I guess its their nature, like the scorpion riding on the fox's back. ... Though Bush himself ran several businesses into the ground and never earned an honest dollar, it seems that the soundest investment of all was in giving Bush your money and joining the crony bandwagon. ... even as Bush's cronyism is proving to have cost hundreds if not thousands of lives, Bush and his cronies are still hiring yet more cronies and paying them off with taxpayer dollars."

Bush the Incompetent

"Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives," Harold Meyerson commented in the January 25, 2006, Washington Post.

FEMA Cronyism Led to Failure

Michael Brown, who resigned September 12, 2005, as FEMA's director, "has become a symbol of cronyism," Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times.

Brown "didn't know the difference between a tropical depression and an anxiety attack when President Bush charged him with life-and-death decisions," Maureen Dowd wrote in the Times.

"W. trusted Brownie simply because he was a friend of a friend," Dowd said. "He was a college buddy of Joe Allbaugh, who worked as W.'s chief of staff when he was Texas governor and as his 2000 presidential campaign manager."

When FEMA was "reorganized under Homeland Security, stripping it of authority," Allbaugh left the agency to become a lobbyist for companies like Halliburton, leaving behind "an eviscerated FEMA" with "his friend Brown in charge," Dowd said.

Spencer S. Hsu wrote in the September 9, 2005, Washington Post that "Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"FEMA's top three leaders -- Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency. Two other senior operational jobs are filled by a former Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was once a political operative."

"Meanwhile," Hsu reported, "veterans such as U.S. hurricane specialist Eric Tolbert and World Trade Center disaster managers Laurence W. Zensinger and Bruce P. Baughman -- who led FEMA's offices of response, recovery and preparedness, respectively -- have left since 2003, taking jobs as consultants or state emergency managers, according to current and former officials."

"Patronage appointments to the crisis-response agency are nothing new to Washington administrations. But inexperience in FEMA's top ranks is emerging as a key concern of local, state and federal leaders as investigators begin to sift through what the government has admitted was a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina," Spencer S. Hsu wrote September 9, 2005.

FEMA's "Bungled Response" to Hurricane Katrina

FEMA's response to one of the greatest natural disasters in American history was serious hampered by its failure to prepare, in spite of the recent "Hurricane Pam" simulation, and relief spending experience in pre-Election Florida 2004.

"The breakdown in management and communications was so execrable that the president learned about the 25,000 desperate, trapped people at the New Orleans convention center not from [FEMA director Michael Brown] ..., who didn't know himself, but from a wire story carried into the Oval Office by an aide on Thursday, 24 hours after the victims had been pleading and crying for help on every channel," Maureen Dowd wrote September 10, 2005.

The "lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina revealed to everyone that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which earned universal praise during the Clinton years, is a shell of its former self," Paul Krugman wrote September 12, 2005.

FAA incompetence failed to avert the 9/11 event

As the veil of secrecy lifts, as many new questions are revealed as new answers. [1] Did the FAA experience the same kind of cronyism incompetence prior September 11, 2001 as did FEMA prior to Hurricane Katrina? Perhaps not; but the process was well underway, as evidenced by the dismissal of the final report of the Hart-Rudman Task Force on Homeland Security, the assignment of Enron to Cheney Energy Task Force, and the appointment of Condoleezza Rice as National Security Advisor.

Nominees to the Department of Justice

"Given this administration’s pattern of nominating ideologically extreme candidates for the judiciary and making politically aggressive nominations decisions such as re-nominating candidates previously disapproved," in his May 12, 2005, statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Vermont Senator Patrick J. Leahy expressed concerns regarding Bush nominees Alice S. Fisher (as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division), Rachel Brand (as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy), and Regina B. Schofield (as Assistant Attorney General (AAG) for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP)).

Senator Arlen Specter "said in the interview on Friday [August 12, 2005,] that he had concerns about the depth of criminal prosecution experience at the top of the Justice Department after the departure" of Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, who left in August 2005 to be Lockheed Martin's new general counsel and who had been "a veteran prosecutor in Manhattan," Eric Lichtblau wrote in the August 15, 2005, New York Times.

"Judiciary Committee members said that for the first time in memory, none of the most senior officials at the Justice Department" -- Alberto R. Gonzales, Timothy E. Flanigan, Robert D. McCallum, Jr., or Alice S. Fisher -- "would have experience as a criminal prosecutor."

Cronyism and Mass Exodus from Government Departments

Paul Krugman asked September 12, 2005, "How many FEMA's are there?"

  • Environmental Protection Agency: "has seen a major exodus of experienced officials over the past few years. In particular, senior officials have left in protest over what they say is the Bush administration's unwillingness to enforce environmental law." According to Hugh Kaufman, "a senior policy analyst in the agency's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, ... 'The budget has been cut ... and inept political hacks have been put in key positions.'"
  • Food and Drug Administration: "Serious questions have been raised about the agency's coziness with drug companies, and the agency's top official in charge of women's health issues resigned over the delay in approving Plan B, the morning-after pill, accusing the agency's head of overruling the professional staff on political grounds."
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting: "Republican chairman hired a consultant to identify liberal bias in its programs. The consultant apparently considered any criticism of the administration a sign of liberalism, even if it came from conservatives."
  • Department of the Treasury: "has fallen from grace"; Treasury Secretary John Snow, "was obviously picked for his loyalty rather than his qualifications ... Less obvious to the public is the hollowing out of the department's expertise. Many experienced staff members have left since 2000, and a number of key positions are either empty or filled only on an acting basis."
  • Department of Homeland Security: "FEMA was neglected, some people say, because it was folded into a large agency that was focused on terrorist threats, not natural disasters." and "In 2004 Reuters reported a 'steady exodus' of counterterrorism officials, who believed that the war in Iraq had taken precedence over the real terrorist threat."

"Grand Incompetence Party"

"No one -- no one -- can name a single front on which today's Republicans have shown even the simplest competence. They don't know how to manage an economy. They sure don't know how to balance a budget. They have no idea how to create jobs (though they do have a pretty strong sense of how to make them disappear). Their domestic-security measures have consisted of the usual emphasis on show over substance, first stealing a Democratic idea (the Department of Homeland Security) and then underfunding the result in some crucial respects -- a mistake for which I pray we never pay a price," Michael Tomasky wrote in The American Prospect, August 27, 2003.

"They don't understand the Bill of Rights, and their shills in the media obviously don't understand the relationship between the First Amendment and trademark law, as Blah-Blah O'Reilly's laughable lawsuit against the great Al Franken shows. They've done nothing to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, and have, if anything, done damage to those resources. They've done nothing for the minorities Mr. Compassionate Conservative was supposedly courting in 2000, his speeches to the NAACP and the like transcribed by a tremulous media," Tomasky said.

"And now, it turns out, they don't know how to do the one thing they've spent 50 years convincing Americans that they and only they know how to do: fight a war."

"And, of course," Tomasky wrote, "there are wealthy interests who keep the party alive financially and who must be rewarded on all possible fronts. This, actually, is the one service Republicans do perform competently. They make damn sure of that."

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