Thursday, September 08, 2005

But Wait, It Gets Worse

I'm sure at this point most of you have learned that President Bush (the War President, the one who takes national security seriously unlike the Democrats) hired Michael Brown, a man with no experience in disaster management, to head FEMA. Brown's singular achievement was his political allegiance to the Republican Party and his friendship with then outgoing FEMA boss Joe Allbaugh.

You probably read that Brown's job prior to his stint with FEMA was with the International Arabian Horse Association - where he oversaw rules and regulations for horse shows and other equine matters. You might have thought the choice of this novice to be odd due to the fact that the Bush Administration continues to maintain that it is only a matter of time before this country is hit with another major terrorist attack. If such an attack is inevitable, why put an inexperienced man like Brown in charge?

And I'm sure that many of you had heard that Michael Brown was actually forced to resign his post at the International Arabian Horse Association due to a spate of lawsuits against the Association predicated on Brown's incompetence. So not only did Bush appoint a novice to head the primary disaster response agency, but the novice couldn't even competently handle a job with far fewer demands than the head of FEMA.

But wait, it gets worse. Not only was Michael Brown an incompetent lawyer, his status as a lawyer itself is even shrouded in mediocrity. According to
Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder:

To understand the Mike Brown saga, one has to know something about the intricacies of the legal profession, beginning with the status of the law school he attended. Brown's biography on FEMA's website reports that he's a graduate of the Oklahoma City University School of Law. This is not, to put it charitably, a well-known institution. For example, I've been a law professor for the past 15 years and have never heard of it. Of more relevance is the fact that, until 2003, the school was not even a member of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS)--the organization that, along with the American Bar Association, accredits the nation's law schools. Most prospective law students won't even consider applying to a non-AALS law school unless they have no other option, because many employers have a policy of not considering graduates of non-AALS institutions. So it's fair to say that Brown embarked on his prospective legal career from the bottom of the profession's hierarchy.[...]

In any case, despite the claim of Brown's FEMA biography that he practiced law for 20 years prior to his 2001 appointment as FEMA's general counsel, it appears that, by 1987, he had already more or less abandoned his nascent legal career. From 1987 to 1990, Brown's resume includes being the sacrificial lamb for the Oklahoma Republican Party in a 1988 congressional election, in which he won 27 percent of the vote against the incumbent Democrat, and stints as an assistant city manager and city councilman in Edmond, Oklahoma. (According to FEMA, because of these positions, "Mike Brown has a lot of experience managing people.") By 1991, he had moved to Colorado, where he became commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA). This position, which never made his FEMA bio, was Brown's full-time job from 1991 to 2001, and it had nothing to do with the practice of law.[...]

What, then, are we to make of the claim in Brown's FEMA biography that, prior to joining the Agency, he had spent most of his professional career practicing law in Colorado? Normally, an attorney practicing law in a state for ten years would have left a record of his experience in public documents. But just about the only evidence of Brown's Colorado legal career is the Web page he submitted to, an Internet site for people seeking legal representation. There, he lists himself as a member of the "International Arabian Horse Association Legal Dept." and claims to be competent to practice law across a dizzying spectrum of specialties--estate planning, family law, employment law for both plaintiffs and defendants, real-estate law, sports law, labor law, and legislative practice. With all this expertise, it's all the more striking that one can't find any other evidence of Brown's legal career in Colorado.

So what legal work did Mike Brown perform before his stunning reversal of fortune? According to his FEMA biography, "[H]e served as a bar examiner on ethics and professional responsibility for the Oklahoma Supreme Court and as a hearing examiner for the Colorado Supreme Court." Translation: In Oklahoma, he graded answers to bar exam questions, and, in Colorado, he volunteered to serve on the local attorney disciplinary board.
Impressive resume. I'd say we should put him in charge of FEMA. Especially after 9/11. In the midst of the War on Terror. I mean, could there be anyone possibly more qualified than "Brownie" as the President affectionately refers to him? Campos closes with a flourish:

When Brown left the IAHA four years ago, he was, among other things, a failed former lawyer--a man with a 20-year-old degree from a semi-accredited law school who hadn't attempted to practice law in a serious way in nearly 15 years and who had just been forced out of his job in the wake of charges of impropriety. At this point in his life, returning to his long-abandoned legal career would have been very difficult in the competitive Colorado legal market. Yet, within months of leaving the IAHA, he was handed one of the top legal positions in the entire federal government: general counsel for a major federal agency. A year later, he was made its number-two official, and, a year after that, Bush appointed him director of FEMA.

It's bad enough when attorneys are named to government jobs for which their careers, no matter how distinguished, don't qualify them. But Brown wasn't a distinguished lawyer: He was hardly a lawyer at all. When he left the IAHA, he was a 47-year-old with a very thin resume and no job. Yet he was also what's known in the Mafia as a "connected guy." That such a person could end up in one of the federal government's most important positions tells you all you need to know about how the Bush administration works--or, rather, doesn't.
The GOP = The Party of Competence. Heh. You want to tell me that with a straight face.

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