In 2003, virtually no one noticed when a relatively unknown bureaucrat named Michael Brown was appointed by President Bush to the head of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). This seemed like a pretty significant promotion, given that Brown had, until then, only been Assistant City Manager of Emergency Services in Edmond, Oklahoma. Going straight from coordinating fire engines in a city of 80,000 to managing the emergency services in all of America is a big jump, but hell, his record seemed pretty solid, and given that FEMA isn’t that important an agency anyway, he was as good a pick as anyone. Right?
Unfortunately for Brown (and, you know, everyone else), he was still the head of FEMA when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. You might recall that the emergency response to Katrina didn’t go very well. Almost as if, say, the person organizing the response had no goddamned idea what he was doing.
Brown resigned after the Katrina disaster, but after a little journalistic investigation, it turned out that he was even less qualified than anyone had suspected. It turned out Brown wasn’t actually Assistant City Manager of Emergency Services in Edmond at all, as his resume said. He was Assistant to the City Manager. Those extra words matter, because they’re the difference between being second-in-charge and being the guy who buys the Starbucks.
He was just a step above “intern.” Though, according to his boss (the actual City Manager) he was pretty good at his job – he always turned up to work on time, and wore a suit every day (that’s actually his defense).