Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Big opportunity to whack FEMA's Brown doesn't materialize

Don’t you wonder why, given the big chance, Louisiana Governor Blanco didn’t rip former FEMA head Michael Brown? One day after Brown’s testimony before a House Select Committee, Blanco was before a Senate committee

In her opening statement, Blanco did not mention former FEMA director Michael Brown, who on Tuesday had blamed state and local officials in Louisiana for not responding appropriately to the storm. She declined later to respond to Brown's accusations when given a specific opportunity by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

"We are looking forward, not backward, " she said.

A few hours earlier, she issued a statement that was not so – forward looking:

In a statement issued in advance of her testimony Wednesday to a Senate panel, Blanco said she issued the evacuation order two days before the storm, and that it resulted in 1.3 million people leaving the city. She accused Brown of uttering "falsehoods and misleading statements" under oath to Congress, and called that "shocking."

She said Brown's comment clearly demonstrates what she says is the "appalling degree" to which he's "out of touch with the truth or reality."

There were very good reasons for the Governor to not get involved in a tit for tat with a disgraced former federal bureaucrat, and her approach at the committee was politically smart. But, why get down in the mud, with a statement that only touches on one part of his allegations, and then take the high road in committee when the TV cameras were on?

There are multiple answers to the question, but it seems to me that a written statement isn’t as interactive as the committee process, and while Senator Conrad’s softball was tempting, the other committee members might have taken the opportunity to visit the issue in more detail. Details are not Governor Blanco’s friend on all of this.

I am baffled by her decision to take a whack at Brown by written statement before committee. She had the right answer with the TV cameras on. Why get down in the mud with a no body? Unless of course, she needs to give the local Louisiana papers some red meat in the effort to rehabilitate a political career.