In his new book “Deadly Indifference,” Michael Brown, the FEMA director when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, charges President Bush with “yielding to the poor judgment of staff aides who insisted upon photo opportunities that overrode common sense.”
And as the federal government faced mounting criticism in the wake of the disaster, Bush “immediately went into CYA [cover your ass] mode,” Brown writes. “I was made the scapegoat for the administration.”
Brown, whom Bush infamously said was doing “a heck of a job,” writes that he was stymied by incompetent local officials and, at the federal level, a chain of command that slowed down FEMA’s response.
“President George W. Bush didn’t get it,” Brown writes. “He failed to comprehend the magnitude of the storm, the critical timing for evacuation, and the increase in services and personnel that was needed because so many people had not left New Orleans.”
Later, he writes that “the President tended to act like a well-meaning fraternity boy who wanted everybody to like him.”
But, wait! There’s more. He goes on to accuse Bush and his family of being “sheltered from reality.”
“The President and his family are not unlike European royalty. They can lead privileged lives isolated from the cares and concerns of the public.”
Brown saves some lashings for others, too.
He says Homeland Security director Michael Chertoff suffered from “bureaucratic thinking” and presidential advisor Karl Rove thought more about the storm’s political implications than recovery efforts.
Brown slams Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for having “no sense of image.”
“Instead of demonstrating concern and awareness of a national priority, she took in a show,” he writes. Rice attended “Spamalot!” on Broadway two days after the storm made landfall.
He goes after New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin for his “seeming inability to think effectively” and writes that Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco was “out of her league.”
But Brown doesn’t entirely let himself off the hook. He believes that he should have been more forceful in pressing the president for resources and that he and his staff could have handled the media better.
The book was co-authored by Ted Schwarz and publishes on Thursday.