Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Kodak Moment

(hat tip to Bartcop)

If only this could be true:
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Former Sen. John Edwards said at a Hurricane Katrina conference he would propose what he called "Brownie's Law" requiring that qualified people, not political hacks, lead key federal agencies.

Edwards, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, drew laughter when he spoke on Monday of the proposal at the "Hope and Recovery Summit" ahead of the two-year anniversary of the storm on Wednesday.

"It's an absolute travesty to have people who are essentially political hacks in a very responsible position," he told the audience at the University of New Orleans.

"Brownie" refers to Michael Brown, who was head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency when Katrina struck the United States on August 29, 2005. He was criticized as being a political appointee unprepared to lead FEMA when a floundering government effort stranded thousands for days in flooded New Orleans.

He resigned shortly after President George W. Bush, who appointed him to the post, told him publicly, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" as chaos reigned in the devastated city.
Unfortunately, the tradition of patronage and rewarding hacks is a long-standing one in politics, not only in America.

True, Brownie blew up in Dubya's face (and a real leader would have fired him in a New York minute, rather than glad-hand him and give us weeks more of incompetent boobery in New Orleans and Mississippi), as did Alberto Gonzalez, another incompetent and ill-equipped appointee. Bush has cover on Gonzo, tho, since the Senate...the GOP-controlled Senate...had to vet and confirm that braying burro of an attorney general.

Still, it is a consummation devoutly to be wished, Edwards' proposal, but one that is ultimately doomed to the bonepile of good-but-impractical ideas. Many questions can be raised: who would vet the credentials of the appointees? The Senate? That would be unConstitutional, which specifically delineates what positions require Senate confirmation.

A blue-ribbon panel? OK, but who would appoint them? And what qualifications would they need?

And you just know some right-wing blog is checking out Edwards' appointees and staffers, looking for any hint of incompetence or underqualification for the position they hold.

Which raises yet another, more basic issue: what would happen if someone whose qualifications are not immediately apparent was appointed to one of these posts?

Nothing in Brownie's past indicated that he would be anywhere near qualified for FEMA director, save for a job as a glorified secretary for some state emergency manager's office.

Sometimes, tho, those administrative assistants know more about the job and the responsibilities than the people who nominally oversee the agency.

Just ask Brownie's secretary at FEMA! In fact, I'd wager that she (or he) would have made a far better FEMA director than Brownie, but (s)he'd never be hired under Edwards' plan.

Nice thought, John-boy. Try again.