The Mainstream Media had their storyline in spite of the facts (and I do think it is "in spite" with them), and so Mr. Brown has chosen to leave. Yes, it does appear that "chosen" is the right word, nevermind the bugling from the mainstream media, and the failure of even some conservative observers to check the facts and ask if maybe the MSM version of events might be a bit, um, skewed. A few simple questions:
- What is the actual record of FEMA in this case?
- What did Brown's bosses say about his performance?
- What is the actual role of the FEMA director?
- What did Brown's bosses say about his role as FEMA director?
The answers all go one direction, which rips against the grain of the MSM story:
- According to people on the ground there, FEMA was in place on Sunday night, BEFORE Katrina hit. They might not have been wearing the logo-shirts so the shallow and the television-addicted could recognize them, but there they were. And they did everything they could given the (lack of) support from the Louisiana government. Despite the bumbling state response and good old fashioned Cajun corruption, according to Jack Kelly (see below), FEMA's response to Katrina met and exceeded all previous cases. Which it had to, because the Katrina disaster was worse than all previous cases.
- Bush and Chertoff, Brown's superiors, said publicly and (in Bush's case) without solicitation that Brown was doing an excellent job.
- The FEMA director is a CEO – an executive officer and a planner – not COO, the chief OPERATIONS officer. Of course a disaster like this requires him to be on-site to start with, but to keep him there when there are other hurricanes brewing and a bigger picture to consider would be dereliction on his part and the part of his bosses. For the press to ignore that fact is either irresponsibility or dishonesty. I'll withhold my opinion as to which it is....
- So Chertoff brings him back to Washington (leaving a military man in charge of the operations, as it clearly should be in this case), explains the situation in a very contentious press conference (the press had a storyline contrary to reality, which angered both Chertoff and Gen. Honore), but the mainstream media wrote it up as a "demotion" (sheez) and a "clear" sign that Bush and Chertoff had lost confidence in Brown, nevermind that they had both clearly stated their confidence in him, and nevermind the actual nature of the job (FEMA director). Even some normally well-ruddered conservatives bought it: One said that Brown was "publicly rebuked by his recall to Washington last week," which is plain bullshit. (The problem with some conservative commentators is that they think politically: Brown became a liability, so challenging the misrepresentations and outright lies about him became less interesting.)
After all that, and despite the known facts to date, Michael Brown realized that he'd become an albatross. It doesn't matter that the press's storyline is irresponsible and substantially false, because this is, in the end, about politics, and Brown knows that. So he quit. He'd originally planned to resign later this fall to return to the private sector, so it's probably no big loss to him (assuming his new employer can think more clearly than your average news reporter).
And so it goes. The wrong head has rolled, but there is at least some hope. I see that, now that they don't have Michael Brown to kick around anymore, the press has moved on to taking shots at Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco. I don't expect they'll stay on that story for too long (Nagin and Blanco are Democrats, Louisiana is a bit of a swing-state, and there are Congressional elections next year), but there's always the blogosphere to keep that fire burning.