FEMA, You're Doing a Heck of a Job
Questions for the agency's future fake news conferences.
No one had any hard questions for the deputy administrator of FEMA, an agency deeply tarnished by its delayed action after Hurricane Katrina, when he held a news conference Tuesday to talk about the California wildfires. "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" someone asked. ... On Friday, however, the agency admitted that the softball questions were posed by FEMA employees, not reporters.—the Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 2007
Surely there are typos in this news release. It says that FEMA has saved dozens of lives and averted billions of dollars of potential property damage. What? That's all true? Wow! I have no further questions.
Sir, I'm told that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is desperately trying to shut down media scrutiny of a certain top-level secret program. Can you confirm or deny the existence of a Web site, called "Ready Kids," which is purported to offer safety tips, slogans, and—most important—fun, and which is said to be energizing parents, educators, and children across the country?
Not long ago, your critics were screaming, "The wildfires are too hot! We'll never put them out! Bring our firefighters home now!" Well, they were wrong. I'm wondering, sir, is there a certain political hero who gave you the courage to stay the course?
I'm a veteran reporter, and I hate positive stories. I'd much rather destroy people, especially with no facts to get in my way. So, my question is this: What minor tidbit should I gin up into a scandal? Because frankly, I've been digging for weeks, and I just can't find one damn thing that you guys have done wrong.
The suffering of those who lost homes is intense. But I'm wondering, sir, if you could put a face on a different kind of human tragedy: Please talk about how your own family has dealt with the long hours you devote to work. I know you try to avoid the limelight, but could you discuss the toll on your loved ones?
Hart Seely's memoir as a Yankee fan, The Juju Rules, will be published next year.
Photograph of FEMA Director R. David Paulison by Robert Sullivan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.