Still learning from Brownie

October 28, 2005

If ever there was a guy who deserved to be fired, it was Michael Brown, the FEMA director in charge of responding to Hurricane Katrina.

Yet Mr. Brown, who resigned in disgrace Sept. 12, is still on FEMA's payroll at his full salary of $148,000 a year - and will be until almost Thanksgiving. The spoils system is protecting the spoiled.

Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary who approved two 30-day extensions of Mr. Brown's employment, told the Associated Press the former director is helping with a review of the Katrina debacle so newcomers can learn from "Mike's experiences."

The country's experience with Mr. Brown was of a performance so wretched that President Bush was forced to acknowledge responsibility for a fiasco from which he may never recover. A close friend of one of Mr. Bush's close friends, Mr. Brown's other qualifications for the job were so thin he became poster boy for the cronyism that seems to infect the whole administration.

What's more, Mr. Brown's attitude was petty. He considered it beneath him to be sent into the field when disaster struck, couldn't deal with people dying in New Orleans because he needed time for dinner in Baton Rouge, and in his report to Congress blamed all that went wrong on others.

So, here's the obvious lesson: With the right connections, you can screw up spectacularly and still get a golden parachute.

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