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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  August 28, 2006
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Topic category:  Other/General

Michaels Brown and Chertoff: Scapegoat and Pet Goat

When President Bush was told that the media was excoriating former FEMA Director Michael Brown over Hurricane Katrina, he replied, "Better him than me or Chertoff." And he let Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff try to protect himself by shifting the blame he richly deserved to Mr. Brown, who had been sounding the alarm internally for years.

When President Bush was told that the media was excoriating former FEMA Director Michael Brown over Hurricane Katrina, he replied, "Better him than me or Chertoff." And he let Homeland SecuritySecretary Michael Chertoff try to protect himself by shifting the blame he richly deserved to Mr. Brown, who had been sounding the alarm internally for years.

When it comes to airline security, Mr. Chertoff may have special insight: he is the son of El Al Israel Airlines first flight attendant. When it comes to dealing with hurricanes, however, Mr. Brown had ample experience (his handling of four hurricanes that hit Florida in quick succession in 2004 kept President Bush in the White House for another term) and Mr. Chertof is an able lawyer and former prosecutor and federal appellate judge who knew to stay out of the hurricane's path and to delegate to Mr. Brown. Unfortunately, he had ignored Mr. Brown's advice (as had his predecessor, Tom Ridge) and now even Mr. Brown could overcome America's greatest natural disaster hitting Louisiana, where the first response was woefully inadequate (notwithstanding many able and brave first responders) and lack of adequate preparation over scores of years, lack of leadership by the Governor of Louisiana (Kathleen Blanco) and the Mayor of New Orleans (Ray Nagin), a pair of Democrats who feuded with each other before and during the disaster). Remember, FEMA is not first responder and the Governor and the Mayor would not begin a mandatory evacuation when Mr. Brown advised it, or even after Mr. Brown had President Bush urge it. But, Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin would still be in office as reconstruction began and Mr. Brown was expendable, especially if his scalp could be offered for Mr. Chertoff's.

The September issue of The Atlantic included an edited transcript of an interview of Mr. Chertoff by Stuart Taylor. The two lawyersare friends from their days as editors of the Harvard Law Review.

Mr. Chertoff typicallytries to blame Mr. Brown. In fact, Mr. Chertoff had headed for an avian flu conference (a fact not mentioned) and delegated to Mr. Brown "virtually all [his] authority" (a fact "frankly" acknowledged).

Still, Mr. Chertoff claimed that Mr. Brown, in testifying to a Senate committee last February, "basically acknowledged that he was deliberately insubordinate" and blamed Mr. Brown for not having candidly told him that "he just wasn;t capable of functioning under [Mr. Chertoff's] leadership."

It's NOT hard for a subordinate to function under a "leader" who delegates "virtually all [his] authority." With respect to Katina, Mr. Chertoff's "leadership" was a burden instead of a benefit.

The problem was that the Homeland Security Department of which Mr. Chertoff was appointed Secretary earlier in 2005 had refused to approve the preparations for a Hurricane Katrina disaster that Mr. Brown had foreseen and tried to prepare for without the support he needed for the purpose. In fact, Mr. Brown was in the process of drafting his resignation letter when Hurricane Katrina threatened and did his best in the circumstances forced upon him while Mr. Chertoff delegated and dealt with avian flu considerations and then interfered foolishly, by ordering Mr, Brown to stay in Baton Rouge (because Mr. Chertoff was peeked that he could not communicate immediately with Mr. Brown). Former FEMA Directors Jamie Lee Witt, a Clinton Democrat, and Joseph Albaugh, President Bush's 2000 campaign manager, agree that Mr. Chertoff's order was hurtful instead of helpful.

Ironically, Mr. Chertoff told Mr. Taylor not that he regretted tethering Mr. Brown to Baton rouge, but delegating "virtually all [his] authority" to him. Considering Mr. Brown's years of experience at FEMA dealing with disasters from hurricanes to September 11 and Mr. Chertoff's lack of experience, the delegation was the right move and the subsequent interference by an inexperienced superior was wrong.

Selective use of Mr. Brown's emails have been used to create a false impression as to his priorities. But there are emails showing that while the disaster was developing and people were suffering and dying, Mr. Chertoff's Homeland Security Department wanted to make sure Mr. Brown included a reference to "strong support" from Secretary Chertoff in his public statements. So much for the Mr. Chertoff's priorities!

Amusingly, Mr. Chertoff suggests his problem was that he was not a mind reader: "Well, I have to say, in retrospect, knowing what I know now, I wish I hadn't [delegated virtually all my authority to Mr. Brown]. The one thing I will say is this: I replaced him quickly. By the end of that first week, I had put [coast Guard Vice] Admiral [Thad] Allen in plan to run the operation in New Orleans. Now, had I known at the time what I later learned was in [Mr. Brown's] mind, I would have put Admiral Allen in a week earlier. I can't replay that event, although I can wish I had known what was in his mind at the time rather than when he testified six months later."

That seemslike an admission by Mr. Chertoff that HE was not on top of things. Perhaps Mr. Chertoff should have met with Mr. Brown instead of deciding that a meeting was unnecessary. Reality: FEMA was a very small part of Mr. Chertoff's very large empire, and handling natural disasters was not his thing. Mr. Brown opposed folding FEMA into Homeland Security and favored preparing for a Hurricane Katrina, and he wasright about both.

Katrina could have been worse. If Mr. Brown had not worked directly with the White House as he had in 2004 during the Florida hurricanes, because he knew he could get more things done that way, LESS would have been done. And if President Bush didn't want it that way, he should have said so, instead of calling Mr. Brown directly. The procedure that the White House wanted followed was followed, of course.

Michael J. Gaynor

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Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is gaynormike@aol.com.


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