One thing the media ought to do on a regular basis is provide updates on the quality of appointees a president makes. Irrespective of political philosophy, most of us can agree that people should be appointed to positions for which they appear qualified. And they should not be hired for positions where their experience runs directly counter to the fundamental objectives of the agency, unless there is a public consensus that those objectives need to be reversed. So it is with agencies dedicated to science, to protecting the environment, and the like. No president has installed in the Secretary of Defense’s office someone who would like to weaken the nation’s defenses.
Yet the Bush administration appointed a number of individuals whose commitments to stewarding public lands, protecting the public’s health, and so forth, were in extreme doubt, based on the kind of work they did prior to coming to the administration—and confirmed by their subsequent track records. Other individuals simply had no reason to be holding their jobs. Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the time of Hurricane Katrina, was a prime example. For more on his actual background prior to coming to FEMA, read the WhoWhatWhy exclusive, “Unholy Trinity.”
In beginning to look at appointees of the current administration, let’s start with FEMA. President Obama’s choice as FEMA director, just confirmed by the senate, is Craig Fugate. A former chief of emergency management in Florida, a big state that has a lot of natural disasters, Fugate has 33 years experience in his field. Compare that with Michael Brown, who had zero.