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Cronyism Kills

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September 9, 2005

“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

The speaker was George W. Bush. “Brownie”, is Michael Brown the head of FEMA. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the abhorrent mismanagement of the relief efforts, a lot of attention is being rightfully paid to Mr. Brown and his bungling. As the attention morphs into scrutiny, it is becoming painfully obvious that cronyism kills.

Cronyism is a term defining how the Bush administration hands out important government posts. It is when a person is given a government job not based on experience but rather on the good ole boys network. It is not what you know, but who you know. Michael Brown knew Joseph Allbaugh, the former FEMA Director and former Bush campaign manager in 2000. He actually had no relevant experience for the job, but when you are a crony, you don’t have to. Prior to FEMA, Mr. Brown worked for the Arabian Horse Association, who eventually dismissed him.

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Last week, Brown actually went on several news shows to state that he had no idea that there were people being held in the Convention Center without food, water or electricity. Never mind that for days, the rest of the world knew, because it was being reported on every channel. Apparently, Mr. Brown does not watch CNN or the weather channel. As the criticism mounted Time Magazine decided to investigate just who Mr. Brown was and they have discovered that he was even less qualified than we thought.

It seems that Michael Brown had to lie just to make himself as unqualified as we thought he was. His resume was filled with embellishments. First of all, Mr. Brown claimed that from 1975 to 1978 he worked for the City of Edmond, Oklahoma, overseeing the emergency services division. The obvious nature of this lie was to give the appearance that 30 years ago, he worked in a supervisory capacity in a related field to the FEMA position he was being handed. Unfortunately, he actually was an intern, not a supervisor. Not one single person answered to him.

Not content with that fabrication, his profile on, had Brown claiming to be previously named “Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University.” Well, not exactly. According to the Public Relations Office at Central State, Brown was actually a student, possibly an adjunct, but never was a professor. Furthermore, Central State has said that there never was any such “Outstanding Political Science Professor” award.

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Continuing through his maze of prevarications, we find that Mr. Brown stated that since 1983, he has been the Director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home in Edmond. Time Magazine was informed by this nursing home that Mr. Brown is, “not a person anyone here is familiar with.” The nursing home does not even have a board of directors anymore and when it did, no one can remember Brown ever being on it. In fact, he was never there, “in any capacity.”

Now, out here in the real world, when someone is hired there is a background check conducted to verify previous employment. If so much as the dates were inferred wrongly, employment is not offered. How exactly did this administration appoint Brown and not bother to check the basics of his claims. In summary, three of his major claims have been now dispelled as being lies. The one job he did have, was working with Arabian horses, and he was dismissed from that job. What was the thinking process to give this man any job, let alone the top job of protecting this country from natural disasters?

Today it was announced that Mr. Brown was sent back to DC and will not lead the recovery efforts anymore. Mind you, he was not fired. He will continue drawing his exorbitant salary from our taxes; even though it is now clear he lied to embellish credentials he never had.

When an employee has been caught fabricating his resume, his credentials, he is fired in the real world but not in the land of cronyism. In the real world, a company has to assess the damage caused by the faux employee in terms of lost productivity or efficiency, maybe even revenue. To properly assess the damage caused by Mr. Brown the tally will be in the form of human life, of the blood of Americans. The death toll is now far into the thousands from this disaster. While there are many factors contributing to this horror, Mr. Brown was clearly in over his head and the culpability must start with him. He lied to enhance an appointment he never should have gotten, and now thousands of people are dead. The man who claimed to not know there were people in the Superdome, not only needs to start watching more news programs, but he needs to be held accountable.

The accountability does not stop there though. The man who appointed him to such an important, life-saving position needs to be held to task as well. You cannot tell me that the administration, “did not know.” The types of checks run by the federal government far exceed those in the real world. Either they knew, or they were negligent in running the checks at all and now people have paid with their lives.

Who else is working in this government on false credentials? Who else holds vital positions they do not deserve to be in? The next two people at FEMA were also appointed through the cronyism network. Chief of Staff, Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler also came into their high profile positions because of ties to the 2000 Bush campaign. Is it going to take another investigation by Time Magazine to uncover how much deeper the incompetence goes? Because of high turnover, nine of the ten regional directors of FEMA are working in an “acting” capacity. Is there anyone in the agency responsible for responsiveness and preparedness for natural disasters with any relevant experience at all? Is this how little Bush thinks about your safety? This is an administration that sold us on their ability to protect us, not protect their own.

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What about Michael Chertoff? The man who is in charge of the Department of Homeland Security actually tried to deflect criticism by claiming they were somehow not expecting the “one-two punch” of the hurricane and the flood caused by the levees being breached. Are you kidding me? Is flooding not a concern when a category five hurricane is heading toward mainland? Is it even not more a concern when you know that the levees were shorted by 50 million dollars and were not going to sustain past a category two hurricane? There were experts a week before the storm who said the levees were going to bust under the brunt of a major hurricane. If there was a hurricane followed by an earthquake, that would be unexpected, but a flood? Is anyone buying this nonsense? Who is Michael Chertoff and what experience does he bring to the job? Has anyone checked his credentials as well? It is now known that Chertoff was advised days prior to the hurricane making landfall by the director of the National Hurricane Center, exactly how bad things were going to be. Perhaps the lamest excuse offered by Chertoff is that he thought the damage was minimal because he read one headline which said that New Orleans “dodged a bullet”. So the guy who heads FEMA doesn’t watch the news and the head of DHS relies on one headline for his intelligence briefings? This is like a bad Abbot and Costello routine, who the hell is on first here?

In the wake of the worst hurricane in our history the truth coming out is the end results did not have to be this bad. The preparedness was atrocious and the response since has been tepid at best. The people at the head of both the preparedness and the responsiveness appear to be inept at best and criminally negligent at worst. One of them is now a proven liar, having padded his accomplishments to try and cover up the fact that he had no experience to head up FEMA. The other guy apparently needs to be investigated for his own incompetence. Behind all of this is a president who clearly does not care. He makes appointments to life-saving posts based on cronyism, not what is in the best interest of the people he is sworn to protect. It is very clear now, cronyism kills.

Bushie, you are NOT doing a heck of a job.


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Anthony Wade, a contributing writer to, is dedicated to educating the populace to the lies and abuses of the government. He is a 46-year-old independent writer from New York with political commentary articles seen on multiple (more...)

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