I was filled with a mixture of pity and revulsion as Stephen Colbert interviewed Mike "Brownie" Brown, former head of FEMA, last night.
On one hand, he seemed completely willing to accept the mantle of whipping boy for the debacle of the response to Hurricane Katrina, despite the evident culpability of a host of characters. On the other hand, whether he was joking or not, he seemed comfortable having the blame shifted to his former boss, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Brown's glib attempts to make light of his situation and his nervous laughter were more than a little disgusting, even in the context of a comedy show. I kept thinking about the hundreds of needless deaths, and here was this guy who was in charge of coordinating the federal response chortling away on national TV just five months later. It merely reinforced perceptions of the ineptness that precipitated his downfall.
Yes, FEMA was but one player in the Katrina cluster-fuck. Compounding the mistakes of a brainless FEMA administrator were also a feckless governor and a clueless mayor. (Katrina was a tragic "perfect storm" in many ways.)
But if Brown's goal last night was to rehabilitate his character and integrity, then I don't think he did himself any favors.
[Watch video – 7:11, WMV format, high bandwidth]
[Watch video – 7:11, WMV format, low bandwidth]
Of course, it wouldn't be a "Colbert Report" without some hilarious allusion to homosexuality. Colbert brought out a thinly disguised David Cross as "ultra left-wing radio talk show host Russ Lieber," putatively to discuss school vouchers.
But the interview soon morphed into a bizarre and tangled debate on gay adoption. See for yourself.
[Watch video – 4:46, WMV format, high bandwidth]
[Watch video – 4:46, WMV format, low bandwidth]