Former head of FEMA Michael Brown testified before Congress today. He spoke and was questioned for several hours, and the massive transcript is here and here in PDF form.
From the AP:
Former FEMA director Michael Brown blamed others for most government failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday, especially Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He aggressively defended his own role.
Brown also said that in the days before the storm, he expressed his concerns that "this is going to be a bad one" in phone conversations and e-mails with President Bush, White House chief of staff Andy Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin.
And he blamed the Department of Homeland Security _ the parent agency for the Federal Emergency Management Agency _ for not acquiring better equipment ahead of the storm.
His efforts to shift blame drew sharp criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.
"I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. "That kind of look in the lights like a deer tells me you weren't capable of doing that job."
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., told Brown: "The disconnect was, people thought there was some federal expertise out there. There wasn't. Not from you."
... "My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," two days before the storm hit, Brown said...
... "I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said...
... Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. told Brown: "I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans."
In a testy exchange, Shays compared Brown's performance unfavorably with that of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans," Brown said.
"What I wanted you to do is do your job and coordinate," Shays retorted.
"I'm happy to be called not a Rudy Giuliani ... a scapegoat ... if it means that FEMA ... is going to be able to be reborn," Brown said.
Criticized by Shays for failing to get better equipment to make communication easier among emergency agencies, Brown blamed those above him.
"We put that money in our budget request and it was removed by the Department of Homeland Security" he said.
Brown said he was "just tired and misspoke" when a television interviewer appeared to be the first to tell him there were desperate residents at the New Orleans Convention Center.
Brown said he learned a day earlier that people were flocking there.
He blamed "a hysteric media" for what he said were unfounded reports of rapes and murders. He characterized blunt-spoken Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the military coordinator for the disaster, as "a bull in the China closet, God love him."
And he said Americans themselves must play a more active role in preparing for natural disasters _ and not expect more from the government than it can deliver.
Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas told Brown: "I don't know how you can sleep at night. You lost the battle."
Brown in his opening statement cited "specific mistakes" in dealing with the storm, and listed just two.
One, he said, was not having more media briefings.
As to the other, he said: "I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off."
Both Blanco and Nagin are Democrats.
In Baton Rouge, La., Blanco's press secretary, Denise Bottcher, responded: "Mike Brown wasn't engaged then, and he surely isn't now. He should have been watching CNN instead of the Disney Channel," Bottcher said...
Another AP report has these bits from the transcript:
"FEMA is a coordinating agency, we are not a law enforcement agency," he said.
"It is inherently impractical, totally impractical, for the federal government to respond to every disaster of whatever size in every community across the country," Brown said.
"It breaks my heart to think about the disasters we respond to as FEMA and to think about the disasters that we also don't respond to," he added.
Brown also mentions a hitherto unknown site:
Ironically, it started with an organization called horsesass.org, that on some blog published a false, and, frankly, in my opinion, defamatory statement that the media just continued to repeat over and over.
They might have been the first site to discuss Brown's resume, and they respond to this news in typical leftie fashion:
That said, listening to Brown's testimony, I think he's saying something very importantÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ something that speaks to the broader ideology of the Bush administration. He's not just blaming the state and local authorities for the chaos in the aftermath of Hurricane KatrinaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ he keeps repeating that various rescue and relief operations are not and should not be the responsibility of the federal government.
In response, I would just like to point out that the whole purpose of having a Federal Emergency Management Agency is to deal with regional events that are so catastrophic that state and local agencies are unable to respond. If we can't expect that from our federal government, I wonder what purpose the Union serves?