Disclosure: I worked for the Lamont campaign doing web design and production and some writing for the official blog (from 9/5/06 to 11/07/06).

Friday, August 25, 2006

 

Lieberman's Failures on Homeland Security

Slow news day (or morning, at least), and starting today and through the weekend I won't be posting much. Make sure to visit the local and national blogs linked on the left.

Here are two absolute must-read posts from today to start, both spotlighting the very important and until now very overlooked issue of Sen. Lieberman's failures on Homeland Security.

First, Joejoejoe at dKos highlights Lieberman's leading role in dismantling FEMA, as well as his role in confirming Michael Brown and complete failure in oversight responsibilities as Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee from the Jeffords switch in 2001 up until the Democrats lost the Senate in 2002.

I was struck by this absolutely prescient testimony from Ivo Daalder, arguing against folding FEMA into DHS in front of the Judiciary Committee in June 2002:

Daalder: Take FEMA. This is one of the best run federal government agencies. It has excellent record, gained through years of responding to natural disasters, of dealing with state and local government entities and first responders. In its FY2003 budget, the Bush administration proposed that FEMA take central control of all training and grant programs for first responders, providing state and local authorities with the kind of one-stop shopping and integrated training program they have long demanded. Why, then, tear an agency with such a successful record from its roots and integrate into a much larger bureaucracy, with new command and control lines? Much of its day-to-day responsibility has nothing to do with terrorism--and whatever responsibility it does have for this area is fundamentally different from the preventive and protective counter-terrorism functions of other parts of the proposed department. No one proposes to merge the diplomatic functions of the State Department with the military functions of the Pentagon, even though both have a role in national security policy--including in countering terrorism. Might it not be better, then, to leave FEMA be, and coordinate its counter-terrorism role as part of a well-functioning interagency process?


It's not as if DHS as it was configured was a foregone conclusion. Sen. Lieberman played an active role in weakening FEMA, against the advice of many experts, which, along with a complete lack of oversight of DHS, resulted in the post-Katrina disaster last year.

Second, Maura at MLN explores the infamous 42-minute Michael Brown hearing in the detail it deserves:

Joe Lieberman was a leader who had oversight responsibility and was actually in power in the Senate leading the committee that should have actually VETTED Michael Brown, not praised him effusively based solely on his own resume or used most of the 42-minute hearing to engage in inane banter. Joe Lieberman abdicated his oversight authority. That's the way things are done in Lieberman's Washington.


Dan Gerstein and Sen. Lieberman can try to make excuses, but the #2 at FEMA is not a minor appointee, and when someone that unqualified applies to any position in a goverment agency where competence saves lives, there was no excuse. Period. But, of course, that doesn't stop Gerstein from making one:

“Maybe in Ned Lamont’s naïve, reality-challenged world, he thinks simply by yelling loud enough he would have gotten the White House to give him what he wanted,” Dan Gerstein, Mr. Lieberman’s spokesman, said in a statement. “But that’s not how things work in Washington.”


Maybe in Dan Gerstein's entrenched D.C.-insider world, he thinks simply by not owning up to the senator's resposibility for oversight and making excuse after excuse for confirming an utterly incompetent man for a crucially important job at FEMA, he will get voters to stop paying attention and give him what he wants. But that's not how things are going to work in Connecticut.

Bottom line: Sen. Lieberman has not provided anything close to the leadership, oversight, or seriousness we so desperately need from government on national security. He has refused to challenge the White House when it matters and would refuse to do so in the future.

Update: Scarce at MLN dug up this absolutely jaw-dropping Fox News video clip from the days immediately following Katrina. Sen. Lieberman refuses to call for Michael Brown's resignation (as Nancy Pelosi had already done), and seems quite at ease with the Bush administration's response while the by-now familar scenes of destruction and tragedy play out on screen:



Just amazing.

Update 2: Jay from the comments on Gerstein's quote to the Times:

There has never, ever, ever been a better reason to change the way things work in Washington than the one contained in the condescending, yet supine, policy of rolling over for Bush evidenced in this Gerstein quote.

Shorter Joe: Unquestioningly accepting woefully underqualified hacks who'll undoutably fail at mission-critical moments is the way Washington works.


The infuriatingly hilarious thing, as a commenter at dKos notes, is that Gerstein and Lieberman have been shouting from the rafters about the evils of Democratic partisanship (never a word about Republican partisanship, of course) and about how "bipartisanship" is the only way to get things done in D.C.

But imagine what standing up to - instead of embracing - Bush's dismantling of Clinton's professional and well-run FEMA might have done. Imagine what one senatorial voice speaking up about Michael Brown's complete lack of qualifications might have done.

Bipartisanship in the name of incompetence and failure is no virtue.

And in this case, it so obviously failed America. And Gerstein pretty much admits it.
Comments:
What exactly is Gerstein arguing anyway? That Lieberman was powerless to stop Katrina? That even had he voiced objections over how it (FEMA) was being run there's not much chance he would have been listened to anyway? I don't see the logic he's trying to present, if any.
 
“Maybe in Ned Lamont’s naïve, reality-challenged world, he thinks simply by yelling loud enough he would have gotten the White House to give him what he wanted,” Dan Gerstein, Mr. Lieberman’s spokesman, said in a statement. “But that’s not how things work in Washington.”

There has never, ever, ever been a better reason to change the way things work in Washington than the one contained in the condescending, yet supine, policy of rolling over for Bush evidenced in this Gerstein quote.

Shorter Joe: Unquestioningly accepting woefully underqualified hacks who'll undoutably fail at mission-critical moments is the way Washington works.
 
Wow, that clip is great. Joe is parrotting word for word the GOP talking points from that time, eg "Now's not the time to play the blame game." He's part of the problem and will never be part of the solution.
 
OT, but:

"It would be better to do nothing at all [about Enron] than to do too much." Lieberman more or less single-handedlt ruined Enron as a Democratic political issue, because he was so deeply entangled (via Arthur Anderson) and because he so energetically carried the bad guys' water.

Sort of a niche issue by now, but it really burns me and y'all should use it.
 
Maybe in Joe Lieberman’s naïve, reality-challenged world, he thinks simply by kissing Bush's ass loud enough he would have gotten the White House to give him what he wanted.
 
scarce - don't try to find logic in Gerstein's utterances. Gerstein seems to be a modern day William Faulkner, his vicious thoughts just seem to rumble awkwardly and violently from one idea to the next, often with few or no connections. Gerstein's the stream of consciousness communications director.
 
Upstate Guy is right. It's an exact match of the GOP talking points.

9/6/05 - Mr. McClellan: "You know, David, there are some that are interested in playing the blame game. The President is interested in solving problems and getting help to the people who need it."

9/6/05 - Sen. Cornyn: "...leave the blame game and the finger-pointing for later on."

9/2/05 - Sen. Isakson: "However, I’m not going to join in the blame game at this time, though there is plenty to go around."

9/9/05 - Sen. Bond: "Many in Washington are playing the blame game already."

9/19/05 - Sen. Kerry: "Natural and human calamity stripped away the spin machine, creating a rare accountability moment, not just for the Bush administration, but for all of us to take stock of the direction of our country and do what we can to reverse it. That's our job -- to turn this moment from a frenzied expression of guilt into a national reversal of direction. Some try to minimize the moment by labeling it a "blame game" -- but as I’ve said - this is no game and what is at stake is much larger than the incompetent and negligent response to Katrina."

Big John knows what's up. This isn't a game.
 
What is interesting is how in lockstep Lieberman is with Republican (Rovian) talking points.

It would appear that Lieberman isn't simply a parrot. It looks like he is an integral part of the pipeline.
 
Yep, I would say it's official. We can add another entry to the list of Lieberman Supporting Bush's Failed Policies.

How many does this make now?

1. Invading Iraq.
2. Staying the course in Iraq.
3. Not firing Rumsfeld.
4. Privatizing Social Security.
5. Keeping Terri Schiavo's tube in.
6. Wrecking FEMA.
7. Hiring Michael Brown.
8. Keeping Michael Brown.
9. Doging accountability for all of the above.

OK, that's more than one entry.
 
Frankly, it was less that Michael Brown was unqualified, and more that he had been forced out of his position at the International Arabian Horse Association because of ethics concerns - he had been raising money for a personal legal defense fund from people he was regulating, and doing so when he was supposed to be collecting money for the organization as a whole.

It is frankly a scandal that this information, which was public, did not make it into the vetting process or the confirmation hearings.

Lieberman has become a good ol' boy, accustomed to favors and privilege. You can see it in almost every vote or issue he's touched in the last 6 years, particularly since he was nominated as VP. HOW DARE anyone field a candidiate against him, in an ELECTION no less!?!
 
Lieberman shares responsibility for the Katrina in deaths and lasting economic damage. This should be a major issue in the campaign. Because of Lieberman support for Brownie, people died. Hammer him with this on a daily basis.
 
The Lieberman/Katrina message really seems to be resonating. Look at this Conn. Post editorial:

“Lamont charge on Joe, Katrina: plenty of hot air - Lamont should look elsewhere for a campaign issue to attack Lieberman”

Democrat Ned Lamont's campaign drifted into dangerous waters last week, when he all but declared Sen. Joe Lieberman responsible for the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina.
Poor leadership at Federal Emergency Management Agency exacerbated the disaster that befell the Gulf coast a year ago. Lamont contends that Lieberman failed — as the Democratic leader of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — to provide the needed oversight to avert these problems. Instead, Lamont claimed that Lieberman rubberstamped the nomination of Michael Brown to head FEMA — providing a cursory 42-minute-long confirmation hearing — and, actively promoted merging FEMA into a new Department of Homeland Security, despite concerns that it would lose its focus on disaster relief.


You can see the whole thing here

And, you can see a nice analysis of the Urban editorial here.

Clearly, Lieberman's accountable for the disastrous Katrina aftermath, and the pursuit of this issue but Lamont has struck a raw nerve with Team Lieberman. It's an issue that should be hammered on further.
 
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