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Lieberman Defended FEMA Director Before and AFTER Katrina

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On the eve of the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, America is still looking for answers about how our government could allow such incompetence to plague our federal disaster response apparatus. Part of the answer - as with much of the current incompetence from our government - lies in congressional oversight. Where was Congress's oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) before Katrina hit? How could our congressional leaders allow an inexperienced Republican political campaign operative like Mike "Brownie, You're Doing a Heck of a Job" Brown to head up FEMA? How could he be allowed to be put in such a position, especially considering his nomination was overseen by a Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate? The answer is found in one man: Joe Lieberman - the man who both before and - worse - after Hurricane Katrina defended the nomination of Brown, who the Connecticut Senator originally helped shepherd through the Senate.

When Brown was nominated for a top position at FEMA in 2002, Lieberman's Governmental Affairs Committee was the panel that oversaw the confirmation. Sadly, Chairman Lieberman rubber-stamped the nomination, spearheading the praise of Brown and making sure the confirmation went as smoothly as possible. As Lieberman said at the hearing:
"Mr. Brown, you have extensive management experience.... I am glad the President has nominated someone already familiar with FEMA├ éČ ä s mission to become Deputy Director."
Considering FEMA's critical responsibilities, you may have thought that Lieberman would have used all the taxpayer-sponsored resources at his committee's disposal to properly vet Brown's supposedly "extensive management experience." After all, after Katrina, it took Time Magazine just a few days to uncover evidence that Brown's resume was filled with giant holes. Similarly, you may have thought that Lieberman would have used his chairmanship to figure out why, as the Washington Post reported, "five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters." But on both scores, all that came from Rubber Stamp Joe before Katrina was praise for President Bush's nominees.

But if you aren't appalled enough by Lieberman's conduct before Katrina, then consider his public statements right after the disaster. In an interview with National Public Radio on 9/14/05, Lieberman inadvertently admitted his reflexive rubber-stamp tendencies, and tried to justify it as simply standard operating procedure that should not be questioned. He said:
"Our committee conducted a hearing on the nomination of Michael Brown to be deputy director of FEMA. And in the normal course honestly for deputy positions, you normally say, 'Well, the president, if this person passes all the normal checks, has the right to choose who he wants so long as the person is in an acceptable range.'"
There it is for all to see: Joe Lieberman's entire attitude on everything from Hurricane Katrina to the Iraq War is to reflexively do the Bush White House's bidding. He thinks that should be the "normal course" for Congress and for Democrats. You can see this even in the statements of his campaign spokesman, professional liar Dan Gerstein. Responding to Democratic Senate nominee Ned Lamont's criticism of Lieberman's behavior before and after Katrina, Gerstein said, "Maybe in Ned Lamont├ éČ ä s na├â »ve, reality-challenged world, he thinks simply by yelling loud enough he would have gotten the White House to give him what he wanted, but that├ éČ ä s not how things work in Washington."

Translation: Lieberman is angry that Ned Lamont and the voters of Connecticut don't accept the Beltway's assumption that you have to use Connecticut's Senate seat to be a rubber stamp for President Bush. He wants voters to believe that Senators actually standing up and excercising oversight is "na├â »ve" and "reality-challenged" when, in fact, that's what Senators are specifically elected to do. In short, he wants voters to believe that the Lieberman ideology of "Rubber Stamp First, Ask Questions Later" is actually good for America - and that's exactly why Lieberman is on his way out come November 7th.

originally published in Working forChange.com
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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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