Ups and Downs for the Week of February 27

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," March 4, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. and 11:30 ET and Sunday at 2 and 6:30 a.m. EST.

TONY SNOW, GUEST CO-HOST: Let’s check our ups and downs.

UP: former FEMA chief Michael Brown. Newly released videotape showed former FEMA head Michael Brown clearly warning President Bush and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff of Hurricane Katrina’s impending disaster and puts the blame squarely on Chertoff for hamstringing relief efforts. As a matter of fact, he made the point on my radio show Thursday.


MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: Chertoff was a DOJ lawyer, and he didn’t understand the importance of being in the field with your field personnel, finding out, What do you need? What isn’t working? What can I do to break up the red tape?

And when he confined me to Baton Rouge, he, he destined me to fail.


SNOW: Mort, this is a really interesting study, because here’s a guy who’s clearly got a lot of anger toward the administration. Michael Brown became the whipping boy for everybody after Hurricane Katrina.

What’s interesting is, we got a couple of tapes and a couple of transcripts where he is clearly saying to the head of emergency relief in Louisiana, Is there anything you need? The answer was, No. Then you’ve got the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, when asked about whether the levees have breached, she says no.

You’ve got Chertoff — I mean — yes, Chertoff, you’ve got Brown talking to state officials in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, federal officials, trying to put all this stuff together. And lo and behold, it’s not a guy who’s asleep at the switch.

It’s pretty clear he’s trying to settle scores, but there’s one little interesting nugget, which is, he does have a reform suggestion, which is, pull FEMA out of Department of Homeland Security, as it was before, and let them operate independently.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, I don’t see how you can pull FEMA out of Homeland Security when FEMA’s job is to handle disasters and Homeland Security’s all about disasters.

But, I mean, I think that this is a bureaucratic, this would be another bureaucratic mess that he would be creating for reasons of rivalry with Chertoff.

Look, Brown was supposed to be the local field commander on the ground. He was told to be there, like Eisenhower was told to be in London. You know, Eisenhower didn’t go over with the troops at Normandy, he was back there commanding the mission. And Brownie was, according to Chertoff, at least, was up in a helicopter one day, totally out of touch with everything.

So, you know, to the extent, it’s interesting. The media has not listened to that part of Brown, where Brown says that the president was on top of things. They don’t care about that, they just want to watch the back and forth all the time, and make the administration look about as bad as it possibly can.

But the thing is that Brownie should have been on the ground, commanding the troops, and Chertoff was supposed to be back at headquarters like the Army chief of staff.

SNOW: Three quick points. Number one, the reporting on this has been exquisitely bad, even by the standards of this administration, because tapes that make the president and Michael Brown look good were construed as making them look bad.

Number two, Michael Chertoff, poor guy, here he is, he’s got a nice job as a federal judge, he’s been through some tough positions on Capitol Hill, and now he’s in maybe the worst job in Washington, which is the Homeland Security.

Final point on Brown. What he says is that Chertoff was countermanding things. He said, We want you to be in charge, when he tried to be there countermanding. It’s a he said-he said thing. I don’t think anybody cares that much.

KONDRACKE: DOWN: Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. His inability to stem the surge of sectarian violence is starting to wear thin. And now there’s word that Sunnis and Kurds want to remove him from power as part of any political deal.

Look, Jaafari, to his credit, did, along with the Ayatollah Sistani, tamp down the, the sectarian violence, called for calm and so on. The problem is with Jaafari, that he’s been a weak leader. He’s allowed militias to infiltrate the Iraqi security forces and commit acts of what amounts to terrorism.

And after the elections in the bickering back and forth over who was going to be prime minister, he was put into the position of being prime minister by Muqtada al-Sadr, who is one of the great bad guys of Iraq, who is, you know, killing, using his militia to kill Sunnis and foment the civil war.

So, you know, I think it would be a good idea if Jaafari were not the next prime minister.

SNOW: Well, it’s going to be an interesting test. You know what it reminds me of a little bit is the judge in the Saddam trial. The first guy couldn’t take charge; you got to bring somebody who can. And I think you’re right, Jaafari is not the guy.

Now, the Shia Muslims are sitting around saying, Oh, wait a minute, you’re going after our guy. No, no, no, just find another one. If he’s a Shia, it’s going to get along.

Meanwhile, you mentioned something very interesting, which is the general unease about whether there’s going to be civil war in Iraq. General George Casey, head of U.S. forces over there, thinks that after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, that, as a matter of fact, things aren’t so bad.


GEN. GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: I think it’s safe to say that, that an attack in, in, a major attack, particularly on a religious site, would, would have a significant impact on the situation here, coming in the next couple of days. And the Iraqi security forces and us are working to improve the security of those, of those key facilities.


SNOW: What’s interesting is the — what he doesn’t say, which is, it would mean total bedlam and civil war. And in other comments, he’s made it pretty clear that, you know, I don’t think he’s being Pollyannaish, but he’s not, at least, pessimistic about the future.

KONDRACKE: Well, I think he, what he’s warning is that if there is another series of major attacks on, on holy shrines, that that could trigger the civil war. That’s why we’re devoting extra effort, which we should have been doing in the beginning, to protect these holy places, because that, they were under attack by Zarqawi and Sadr went back in the other direction.

SNOW: The only problem is, they didn’t want to surround those shrines.

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