“And Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job." Former FEMA chief Michael Brown writes in Politico that he is still haunted by those words uttered by George W. Bush during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In the lengthy essay, Brown seeks to set the record straight as he sees it: He tried to do the right things but was hamstrung by incompetent people on the local, state, and federal levels, and in the media. "People are still saying now, as they said then, that what went wrong in New Orleans a decade ago was all my fault," Brown writes. "They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. There were many dark moments in those three weeks on the Gulf Coast, and FEMA and the federal government certainly made some mistakes, but perhaps the worst part was being held responsible for the things that I didn't control at all."
Brown names names: He says former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's "incompetence cost lives," and he blasts Anderson Cooper of CNN for an "isolated, out-of-context rescue"—Cooper found a home with people waiting for help—that established the narrative of rescue efforts being in disarray. He accuses Time of a "defamatory" hatchet job about his resume, and also hits former Sen. Trent Lott, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. Most of the piece is devoted to Brown defending his decisions and explaining why he didn't have the authority to do what he thought needed to be done. He also includes a regret where both his supporters and detractors will probably find common ground: "Had I left the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the spring of 2005, my life would be very different today. And I really wish, in retrospect, that I had." Click for the full column. (Read more Hurricane Katrina stories.)