Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two Bush 2000 Florida recount aides were rewarded with top FEMA posts

Shocked. Shocked. Highlights::

Reversing an eight-year crusade to rid the now-embattled Federal Emegency Management Agency of political patronage, a newly elected George W. Bush in 2001 named two key players in his Florida recount fight to important FEMA posts.

Neither man, Jacksonville attorney Reynold Hoover (pictured at left) and Miami lawyer Mark Wallace, had any experience in emergency management before they were named by the Bush administration to FEMA, now under fire for its botched response to Hurricane Katrina. Hoover, a longtime "explosives expert" with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who became a lawyer in 1996, is still with FEMA as its director of national security coordination. Wallace left the Bush administration in 2004 to become deputy manager of the president's re-election campaign, and is now a lobbyist.

They are two more names to add to the list of political appointees and out-and-out hacks at FEMA. Many are calling for the firing of agency chief Michael Brown, the ousted head of a horse association who was hired at FEMA in 2001 along with his college roommate, top Bush advisor Joe Allbaugh. And it was reported yesterday that FEMA's No. 2 and No. 3 officials, Patrick Rhode and Scott Morris, are also former campaign aides.
Consider this quote:

"FEMA is widely viewed as a 'dumping ground,' a turkey farm, if you will, where large numbers of positions exist that can be conveniently and quietly filled by political appointment," the preliminary report said. "This has led to a situation where top officials, having little or no experience in disaster or emergency management, are creating substantial morale problems among careerists and professionals. "

Appropriate in the wake of the agency's bungled efforts over the last 10 days in Louisiana and Mississippi? Yes -- but the above quote is from 1992, during the administration of George H.W. Bush. It came from a preliminary report from the staff of the House Appropriations Committee, and it was written before FEMA came under fire that year for a tardy response to Florida's Hurricane Andrew. (Note: Any article not linked came from the Nexis search engine.)

The Andrew debacle was one of many factors in the first President Bush's failed re-election bid. They say that good government is good politics, and so when Bill Clinton arrived at the White House in 1993, he made a serious effort to rid FEMA of political hackery.
Clinton hired a professional, James Lee Witt, to run the agency and that May Witt told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, according to a Washington Post article, "that FEMA 'will not be doing business as usual' and that he was committed to making his organization 'one of the most respected agencies in this nation.'

Did he succeed? Here's what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in a January 1996 editorial:

FEMA has developed a sterling reputation for delivering disaster- relief services, a far cry from its abysmal standing before James Lee Witt took its helm in 1993.
How did Witt turn FEMA around so quickly? Well, he is the first director of the agency to have emergency-management experience. He stopped the staffing of the agency by political patronage. He removed layers of bureaucracy. Most important, he instilled in the agency a spirit of preparedness, of service to the customer, of willingness to listen to ideas of local and state officials to make the system work better.

But if Clinton and Witt stopped the staffing of FEMA by political patronage, George W. Bush re-started it within days of taking the oath of office -- rewarding some of the people who'd helped him become president in the grueling 2000 Florida recount.

read on

Qualifications? We don't need no stinking qualifications!


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