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Blame goes around on Brown FEMA failed, but where was congressional oversight, questioning?

Former FEMA director Michael D. Brown came under congressional attack this week, and while he richly deserved every piece of verbal shrapnel, he is correct that others share blame for the fatally inept response to Hurricane Katrina.

What is more, the Republican congressmen taking turns pounding Brown have more than public safety in mind. Where were they when President Bush appointed an unqualified crony to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency?

True, the position is not subject to the kind of legislative confirmation process now unfolding for Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr., but Congress routinely reviews the conduct of federal agencies. Didn't anyone -- Republican or Democrat -- grasp the potential for danger when the president put a political appointee with no relevant skills in charge of an agency whose very name suggests its life-and-death mission?

Still, neither the president nor Congress forced Brown to accept a job whose duties were beyond his talents. He failed miserably and he earned whatever torment now besets him. But more must come of this disaster than verbal flogging by self-interested congressmen. Foremost should be a cold-eyed evaluation of the power of presidents to appoint whomever they please. Job descriptions exist everywhere, why not for FEMA?

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