Michael Brown, ex-FEMA head, has advice, criticism for Obama about Hurricane Sandy
Colorado is not facing any danger from Hurricane Sandy, but the effects of the storm can still be felt here, with the Obama and Romney camps canceling scheduled rallies. Today, we decided to check in with a local expert on natural disasters who also has a perspective on potential political ramifications of Sandy: Michael Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who's now a local radio host. He feels Obama may have jumped the gun with his first announcement about the storm, which is expected to hit the East Coast tonight.
Brown, who faced a great deal of backlash for the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, eventually stepped down and returned to Colorado, where he now partners with David Sirota during KHOW's afternoon-drive program.
According to Brown, who famously dubbed "Brownie" by President Bush, it's unlikely that Hurricane Sandy will dramatically impact the presidential race and news coverage in the final week of the election. However, he has some words of advice for the president and his reelection team.
White House photo / Pete Souza Obama receiving update at FEMA headquarters.
Holding a press conference at FEMA yesterday might have been a bit premature, given that the most serious impacts of the storm are not expected until later today, he feels.
"Here's my concern," Brown says. "People in the northeast are already beginning to blow it off.... [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg has shut down the subway...[launched] evacuations.... I don't object...they should be doing all of that. But in the meantime, various news commentators...[and others] in New York are shrugging their shoulders, saying, 'What's this all about?' It's premature [when] the brunt of the storm won't happen until later this afternoon."
Brown says he understands why the president might have chosen to have a news conference earlier rather than later.
"My guess is, he wants to get ahead of it -- he doesn't want anybody to accuse him of not being on top of it or not paying attention or playing politics in the middle of it," he says. "He probably figured Sunday was a good day to do a press conference."
For a FEMA director, Brown says, timing is always an important question: When is it most effective for the president to make an announcement?
"He probably could've had a little more impact doing it today," says Brown. (The president did hold another press conference today as well: He told reporters that he is not worried about the storm's impact on the election).
Brown expects that in the coming days, there will also be comparisons between Obama's quick response to Hurricane Sandy and his slower response to the attacks in Benghazi, which has become a challenging campaign issue for the president.
"One thing he's gonna be asked is, why did he jump on this so quickly and go back to D.C. so quickly when in...Benghazi, he went to Las Vegas?" Brown says. "Why was this so quick?... At some point, somebody's going to ask that question.... This is like the inverse of Benghazi."
Continue for more from our interview with former FEMA director Michael Brown.