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Tuesday, September 13, 2005
 
Brown’s Future

What’s next for newly-ex FEMA head Michael Brown? His future can’t be looking too rosy at the moment, and it doesn’t look like he has many options.

He was nominally in charge of the biggest governmental failure since the Bay of Pigs. He was unqualified to hold his position, and he lied on his resume.

I’d bet his agency’s success in handling the 2004 hurricanes in Florida was the result of quick action on the part of political handlers rather than anything Brown himself did. Even if he had been exemplary, the Katrina failures have rendered the rest of his tenure at FEMA meaningless.

Professionally, there really isn’t anything else to the man. Even a hiring manager at McDonald's might have trouble figuring out what to do with a 'horse lawyer.'

If he’s bravely taking the fall for Katrina on behalf of the rest of the executive branch, it won't exactly be easy to reward him for it. He will never be given another government job, and I don’t know that the VRWC's think tanks or foundations have any holes deep enough to bury him in. Any job he gets above the level of janitor is going to look like some kind of quid pro quo for keeping his mouth shut.

If Brown is ever going to get out of this hole, he’s going to need to find some way to even partially rehabilitate his reputation. But how?

Blaming the severity of the storm has already blown up in his face. In all too many cases, FEMA had the ability to help but did nothing or actively blocked others from helping. Blaming the Democrats for his problems won’t wash. If it had been possible to lay this thing at the door of local officials, Brown wouldn’t have been out of a job in the first place.

He could have a come-to-Jesus moment in which he sees the error of his ways and becomes a motivational speaker for those afraid of making catastrophic errors. Assuming neither he nor his audience has any self-respect, that is.

The simplest way out might be to offload some of the blame onto other administration officials. He could say the wrangling over jurisdiction that took place higher up the chain of command caused his superiors to hold off on acting. He could say that too much attention to the political angle of the situation delayed necessary authorizations. He could say that poor communication outside of FEMA hampered coordination of resources. He could say that he had expected a comparable level of support from the administration to that which he received in 2004 in Florida, but did not anticipate how much effect the fate of a critical swing state (governed by the president’s brother) had during an election year.

He could even write a book about it.

Other possibilities:

He could move to a remote cabin in the mountains and spend the rest of his days muttering incoherently to himself.

Some of Bush’s pals could give him a big bunch of money to shut his mouth, get lost, and stay lost.

He could turn up dead.