Heckuva Job, Barry

Liberals considered the appointment of Michael D. Brown to be essentially an impeachable offense on the part of President George W. Bush. Brown, as you will recall, was Homeland Security Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response, and as such he served as director of FEMA. His feckless and aloof behavior during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, underscored by President Bush’s unfortunate compliment of “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” was absolutely one of the low points of Bush’s second term.

After Brown was run out of FEMA, inquiries into his past turned up zero previous emergency management response experience and a lackluster record of achievement, including numerous terminations. It seemed that everything Brown touched turned to … well, not gold.

Brown’s Wikipedia entry includes this interesting factoid:

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards proposed what he called “Brownie’s Law” requiring that “qualified people, not political hacks”, lead key federal agencies.

Enter Leon Panetta, President-Elect Obama’s choice to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. Panetta is recognized as an intelligent and capable manager, but you’d have to be pretty creative in order to claim that Panetta has any real experience in the intelligence community.

Republican cronyism was touted by Democrats as a primary reason why the Bush administration was so awful. They promised “change,” and applicants who would be thoroughly vetted and qualified to hold important government positions.

Considering the Blago/Burris fiasco, the embarrassing withdrawal of a potentially-tainted Bill Richardson, and now the Panetta nomination, the Obama Administration so far seems to have gone wobbly on that promise.

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Posted by on January 6, 2009.
Filed under Barack Obama, Bush, Democrats, FEMA.
Tagged with: .


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  • GarandFan

    It’s all part of the ‘hopey/changey’ thing. They HOPE their CHANGE will mean something. Of course if it doesn’t, IT’S ALL GEORGE BUSH’S FAULT!

  • Dave Noble

    Michael,

    First off you got the analogy wrong, Panetta would be Brownie. But then, it makes a cooler headline your way.

    Secondly, Brownie was clearly a political hack and no more. The same cannot be said of Leon Panetta.

    What was George H.W.’s intelligence background prior to becoming CIA Director?

    Alternatively, George Tenet was Deputy Director before becoming Director. That did not preclude serious intelligence failures during his tenure.

  • WildWillie

    Davy, you have to consider the times we live in. Unless you are in denial that there is no serious terror threat to us, then someone with experience in disseminating intel is needed. Of course, you are a demo, so it doesn’t matter to you, correct? ww

  • Bruce Henry

    Panetta was WH Chief of Staff. I’m pretty sure he dealt with intelligence matters on a daily basis in that job. Maybe that’s not enough experience to satisfy Michael Laprarie, but you’re not hiring the guy. The duly-elected President is. He’ll have no trouble being confirmed, even from Republicans.
    The reminder about Bush 41 was a good one. Not only was he a very capable CIA director despite his lack of experience, he (I’ll admit it) was probably the ONLY president who could have led us so calmly through the breakup of the Soviet Empire.
    It’s interesting that the commenters here seem to view the world as mirror images. Caroline Kennedy/Sarah Palin, Panetta/Brownie, Franken v. Coleman/Bush v,Gore, etc.
    Guess what? History DOESN’T repeat itself, it only rhymes.

  • http://albanymediabias.blogspot.com Falze

    Dig a little deeper on Brown and Katrina, you sound like a Democrat, Michael (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Recall that Brown was imminently submitting his resignation (and the administration knew it) right about when Katrina hit. This likely is the source of his ‘aloof’ attitude at the time – he was a lame duck. As for ‘feckless’, the thousands saved by the Coast Guard and others would beg to differ and the federal response was the only one that accomplished anything. I won’t even bother going into all the rest that you should already know. I suggest simply going back and reading the posts on Wizbang from that time to familiarize yourself with what really happened instead of passing along the liberal media historical revisionist view.

    As for your comments regarding his experience, while they were indeed thin (OK, really really thin) in the emergency response area prior to his life in the federal government, by the time Katrina rolled ashore he had dealt with 4 major hurricanes in FL the previous year (the first FEMA head to have to do that) and held a high ranking FEMA position during the 9-11 attack response. So, yeah, when he first started he was inexperienced – when Katrina hit he was one of the most experienced FEMA heads, but had about 1.9 feet out the door already.

    Sloppy.

  • cirby

    Dave:
    “What was George H.W.’s intelligence background prior to becoming CIA Director?”

    Well, aside from his military experience, there was his stint in Congress. But the real connection with the CIA is an interesting one.

    Zapata oil Company was the Bush family oil equipment business. It had rumored CIA connections for a number of years, and was one of the front companies which arranged for ships used in the Bay of Pigs operation. Quite a few former CIA operatives claim that GHW Bush worked with or for the CIA for a long, long time before being named Director…

  • DaveD

    Well, if being WH Chief of Staff of an administration that had the luck to be able to take a vacation from history…… I think Panetta was part of an administration that had tons of experience being briefed. The Clinton administration had no real record of being obligated to act on anything important really in foreign policy/ intelligence. Otherwise I do agree with Mr. Noble that Panetta does have more experience for his respective appointmant than Brown did for his.

  • Bruce Henry

    If you don’t count that whole “Bosnia-Serbia Civil War” thing.
    And implementing the Oslo Accords.

  • mantis

    Well, aside from his military experience, there was his stint in Congress.

    Yeah, those make Bush much more qualified.

    Panetta was First Lieutenant in the Army from 1964 to 1966 and received the Army Commendation Medal. At Fort Ord he was chief of operations and planning of the intelligence section.

    Panetta was elected to Congress in 1976, and re-elected eight times before he left to take the role of Director of the OMB, and then WH Chief of Staff.

    Of course, that experience is exactly the same as Brown, who played with horses (and was asked to resign for his incompetence) before becoming director of FEMA. Exactly the same.

  • JFO

    I think he’s a great pick and one Obama was definitely going to make. It sends a signal that we’re done with torture, including waterboarding, illegal wiretapping and god knows what else we don’t even know about that’s gone on for the past 8 years.

  • http://fullthrottle,cranialcavity.net/ Marc

    b henry – “Guess what? History DOESN’T repeat itself, it only rhymes.”

    Well maybe, but I tend to think 1993 and the year 2001 was a repeat when viewed thru the WTC prism.

    And there are certainly hundreds of other examples.

    Nice try though.

  • http://fullthrottle,cranialcavity.net/ Marc

    cirby – “Well, aside from his military experience, there was his stint in Congress. But the real connection with the CIA is an interesting one.”

    H.W. Bush was also the Chief of the US Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China at a time when the US recognized China over Taiwan, in addition to being the Ambassador to the United Nations.

    Both posts are “intel” related no matter how you slice it.

  • http://fullthrottle.cranialcavity.net/ Marc

    JFO – “It sends a signal that we’re done with torture, including waterboarding, illegal wiretapping and god knows what else we don’t even know about that’s gone on for the past 8 years.”

    Do ya think?

    Actually no, you spent zero time thinking about obama’s wire-tapping position.

    As a result once again (or is it perpetually?) you look like a clueless out of touch fool.

  • Bruce Henry

    And WH CoS isn’t? At all?

  • http://fullthrottle,cranialcavity.net/ Marc

    b henry – Never said it wasn’t.

    Got another pointless point?

  • Bruce Henry

    Well, Laprarie did say above that, “you’d have to be pretty creative to claim that Panetta has any real experience in the intelligence community.”
    And my pointless point is that the WH CoS is, in fact, part of the intelligence community.
    I mean, wasn’t the supposed lack of Panetta’s experience the point of Laprarie’s piece?

  • JFO

    “lawyer” Marc

    You actually made a point (no doubt given to you by someone else) – I should have said past illegal wiretapping to be factually correct.

    As for the rest – it’s just more of your usual “lawyer” Marc asshat comments.

  • http://fullthrottle.cranialcavity.net/ Marc

    JFO – if being an asshat entails both knowing Obama’s position on the wiretapping program, and providing proof of same via a link I’ll wear the label with pride.

    On the other hand you being perpetually and spectacularly clueless is known fact.

  • Bruce Henry

    Also, Panetta was a member of the Baker Commission, aka the Iraq Study Group. You know, the commission that President Bush, ever the fiscal conservative, spent about a bajillion bucks on before ignoring its advice.

  • JFO

    “lawyer” Marc

    You really ought to read your “asshat” comments once in a while. They speak loudly to what you are – a Class A asshole.

    [ May God forgive me for not writing "past illegal wiretapping]

    As I’ve recently asked another Class A asshole, one Tom B – were you born an asshole or do you have to work at it? Never mind, the answer is clear – it comes naturally to you.

  • Bruce Henry

    JFO:
    Dude, knock it off. You’re embarrassing yourself.
    Marc:
    You’re not really a lawyer, are you? You just play one on Wizbang, right?

  • apb

    jfo -

    Impotent rage isn’t very becoming – relax, and provide a better retort.

  • Clay

    You really ought to read your “asshat” comments once in a while.

    How utterly ironic.

  • Clay

    You’re not really a lawyer, are you? You just play one on Wizbang, right?

    Great. More coffee spewed on the keyboard.

  • LenS

    ARCOM’s are the Army’s second lowest medal. In peacetime or a rear area, they are more of a service award than anything else.

    However, I will defend the Panetta nomination in that I suspect Obama is sending a message to the CIA. If the CIA tries to backstab Obama with leaks to the NY Times like they did Bush, then Panetta will be there to smack them down hard.

    Considering Langley’s record since Casey left, I’d say that the CIA needs to be smacked down hard, perhaps even dismantled. They’re a giant domestically based bureaucracy now that produces little for it’s cost.

  • Brian

    >JFO – “It sends a signal that we’re done with … illegal wiretapping

    Actually no, you spent zero time thinking about obama’s wire-tapping position.

    Gee, Marc, nice reference to a 6-month old article about Obama voting for legal restrictions on Bush’s illegal wiretapping. Looks like you’ve achieved that asshat status you so frequently attribute to others.

    You’re also probably not aware who Obama just yesterday appointed to head the OLC (you know, the office that’s supposed to objectively tell the president what’s legal and what’s not). Here’s a clue… she recently wrote:

    The Bush administration used a similar extreme and implausible Commander-in-Chief theory as part of its justification for a second highly controversial counterterrorism practice: years of electronic surveillance here in the United States without complying with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

    This is from her law review article entitled, “What’s a President to Do? Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of Bush Administration Abuses”.

    Yeah, it really sounds just like Obama plans to continue illegal policies.

    What’s that you said about looking like a clueless out of touch fool?

  • http://mikesnoise.typepad.com Mike

    As Clinton White House Chief of Staff, Panetta read intelligence estimates and then passed them on to the President and White House Staff. As a member of the Baker Commission, Panetta again assessed intelligence reports and participated in a recommendation process. You only trust a smart man to do these things, but neither of these experiences is the equivalent of participating in or supervising intellegence gathering in the field, or assimilating field intelligence into reliable estimates.

    Do the two years that Panetta served in the Army as a commissioned officer (he joined as a second lieutenant after earning his Juris Doctor) qualify as career intelligence experience? Perhaps, but my intuition tells me that again, he probably served more in an organization and management capacity (with the added benefit of legal experience) than as an intelligence operative.

    Bottom line — Leon Panetta has an impressive resume as a manager and a director. Given that skill set, he might be a good CIA chief. But he is yet another throwback to the Clinton White House. He is much better known for being a loyal Democrat and a consummate DC policy wonk than for any distinguished work in intelligence gathering or reporting.

    Part of the aura of Obama/Democrat “change” involved new faces, new ideas, and tapping into human resources based on relevant career experience instead of political connections. Barack Obama’s nominee list (so far) has fallen quite short of fulfilling that promise.

  • http://everywhere.com OregonMuse

    Secondly, Brownie was clearly a political hack and no more. The same cannot be said of Leon Panetta

    What, are you high?? Next to Sid Blumenthal and Lanny Davis, Panetta was one of the biggest party hacks that the Clintons ever had.

  • RickZ

    When you run on Hope and Che’nge, you can do whatever the hell you want. (It’s in the marxist playbook.) Besides, who’s going to actually question Barry?

  • RickZ

    # 27 Mike,

    Good post and good explanation on the difference between someone being an intelligence manager and an intelligence gatherer.

  • Magic

    If this law “Brownie’s Law” ever goes into effect

    1. Where will the democratic party find people
    to man the government?
    2. The DNC will have to rewrite the dictionary
    definition of “Political hack”
    3. The DNC PR department (The Media) will have
    to be bought again.
    4. The cost to hire peons to perform the duties
    will radically increase the budget
    5. Redefining the titles for the “Political
    Hacks” employment status.
    5. The RNC will need major medical attention
    from rolling on the ground and hurting them
    selves.

  • Bruce Henry

    I too think # 27 was an excellent comment. I’ll go so far as to say Laprarie should have posted that in the first place instead trying to compare Panetta to poor Brownie. Just not equivalent.

  • Dave Noble

    Oregon,

    “What, are you high?? Next to Sid Blumenthal and Lanny Davis, Panetta was one of the biggest party hacks that the Clintons ever had.”

    So anybody involved in politics is a political hack? Or anybody who is a party loyalist is a political hack? Or anybody who served on a White House staff is a political hack? That latter definition would cover Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

    It reminds me of Dick Armey’s brilliant comment about the Clinton WH being the most political WH ever. That’s like saying “that hospital is the most medical hospital ever.”

    Define “political hack.” Cause right now I’m guessing you have no clear idea of what you mean. I think it’s just a perjorative label you throw around. But then you could prove me wrong.

  • hcddbz

    The head of the CIA is not just about the CIA he has NSA and the other intelligence agencies reporting to him. He needs to know how to manage those assets. One of the problems with our current Intelligence profile is an over reliance on Signal Intelligence, and Satellite and Photo Reconnaissance. We need more human intelligence and we need to start working with people who can provide it.

    The Clinton Administration had some real issues with intelligence.
    Task force Ranger.
    1. The removed the color-coded security badges. This removed a visual identifier of people with the wrong clearance walking in secure areas. This lead to compromise of National Security at our National labs.
    2. The Clinton Administration stop FBI background checks on people working at the labs which then allowed people who should not be near sensitive material to further compromise our security.
    3. W-88 and w-87 nuclear warhead leaks
    4. Allowing people who were careless with national security to keep their jobs.
    5. Allowed American Missile technology to China which increased their ability to hit the US while at the same time stopping deployment of our ballistic missile shield.
    6. Clinton ended COCOM
    7. He stopped military co-operation with coast guard to halt drug runners.
    8. The fact that for 8 years the Clinton Administration said Saddam had WMDs. ( which is true but if Bush lied so did Clinton) This might be do to not having HUMINT confirm what was happening on the ground.
    9. Allowing OBL to get away when they had the opportunity to take him.
    10. Not letting the Ranges and Delta force in Somalia know that Carter had and agreement with