Another Black Eye for the Bush Administration

While California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has generally been lauded for his leadership during the California fire disaster, the federal government is making headlines again for all the wrong reasons. According to CNN, the Federal Emergency Management Agency staged a phony news conference in which FEMA staffers posed as journalists and asked softball questions that lent themselves to gratuitous and self-aggrandizing responses:

Q: "Are you happy with FEMA's response, so far?"

A: "I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far. This is a FEMA and a federal government that's leaning forward, not waiting to react. And you have to be pretty pleased to see that."
Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who apparently had no knowledge of this staged event, was outraged:
"I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government. I have made unambiguously clear, in Anglo-Saxon prose, that it is not to ever happen again and there will be appropriate disciplinary action taken against those people who exhibited what I regard as extraordinarily poor judgment."
Chertoff's anger certainly is justified, but this gets at the very reason why so many Americans have written off President Bush and his administration.

Why should the FEMA staffers who set up this bogus news conference even be given a second chance at all? And why hasn't Chertoff's boss, President Bush come out hard against the perpetrators? Bush most definitely did not want to experience a repeat of the Katrina debacle, so he surely wanted the federal government to work seamlessly throughout this tragedy. But now FEMA has embarrassed itself yet again. And nobody is being held accountable.

Yes, it's "only" a phony press conference. But shouldn't we expect more from our federal government? And whatever happened to personal accountability? What kind of banana republic are we living in when incompetent people can continue to underperform so brazenly and without consequence? If this had happened at a private company, the company's boss would have swiftly fired any and all people involved with committing something so stupid. Why isn't that happening at the highest levels of our government? Consider this lame response from White House Press Secretary Dana Perino:
"It is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House. We certainly don't condone it. FEMA has apologized for the error in judgment."
(That's it?)

Partisan defenders of the current administration may tell others to lighten up or attempt to trivialize this somehow as much ado about nothing. But they are missing the point. Governance is serious business. The federal government should not be in the business of making people laugh, nor should they be in the business of entertaining. They should be in the business of competently doing their jobs and providing for their nation's citizens because there are very real consequences for them failing to do so. Wasting taxpayer dollars, precious time, and media resources over some stupid staged news conference should be a firing offense. It's not something "we don't condone." It's not something "inappropriate." People's lives hang in the balance here. Chertoff is right to be angry, but if these people maintain their jobs, it only further makes President Bush and his administration look like a joke. This entire episode is both embarrassing and contemptible. And the saddest thing about all this is that it's not the first time something like this has happened. And nothing will change.

Where is the outrage? Does government not mean anything anymore?

1 Comment:

Silence Dogood said...

This is absolutely AMAZING to me. I know many will try to spin this off as "reporters just being mad they weren't invited or able to ask questions," but this is the most incredible thing I think I have seen in some time. Our government faking the news AND don't forget "going with it" until called out on it. Response from their hirer ups - "Well they apologized"...so no biggie? Right? Faking the news al la 'V is for Vendett' or former (perhaps current) USSR, the kind of thing, any of the world's great monarchs would be really proud of. These people showed such inconceivably poor judgment they should be absolutely unsantimoniously fired. This is from the same administration that constantly chips away our civil liberties under the montra of 'trust us.' While I think surrending of such rights is a foolish thing to even under a "trustworthy" administration - it will change one day soon to some one "you don't trust." This administration has shown over and over and over and over again ad naseum they are completely lacking of such trust in any capacity, through sheer negligence and incompetence or intential deceit (for a particular egregious example see the 'national security' letters as improperly used hundreds of times by the FBI under all of the circumstances they said would "never happen"). I don't throw around such harsh language flippantly. In a word I am concurrently outraged Mr. Palmer.