Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Anyone hauled before a testy Congress knows he or she is marked before testimony begins. Sometimes one can nurture friends on the committee before opening remarks. At other times, one sits there and takes abuse. What Michael Brown did yesterday might make him feel better, but it didn't help his case from a PR perspective. He was doomed, and he knew it. He flung one last challenge as he sank to political hell.

Congressional testimony is theater, not fact-telling. In Brown's case, the script for the play had been written and rehearsed. It remained only to be delivered in the hearing room.

I don't know enough to determine who was right, wrong or indifferent in events leading to the post-hurricane crisis. It seems from facts gathered so far that many people made errors of judgment and action from highest offices to the lowest. That made no difference for Brown. He might have thrown himself on the mercy of the Congressional court and apologized. He might have eschewed blame and detailed a chronology of facts. He could point fingers, as he did, and fight back. None of it would have helped.

My instincts would be, if faced with this situation, to document closely what happened and enter it into the record for others to pursue over time. There would be little hope of presenting the facts in an orderly fashion before hostile interrogators, but there would be the record. The defense, it seems to me, would be "that what I know of the situation is in the record for Congress to examine." That approach doesn't save one, but it invites the media to check the record.

Brown was done before the hearing He couldn't get a job as a dogcatcher in Washington, D.C. It was a question of how much dignity he preserved.

UPDATE: It pays to read more closely. One claim is that yesterday's hearings were a sham designed to help Brown save face and that he had friends on the dais. If so, it didn't seemed to work.


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