In yet another egregious executive-power grab, President Bush asserted his right last week via signing statement to ignore a Congressional mandate that the next FEMA Director have at least five years of disaster response experience. You would think after the Brownie debacle during Katrina last year the President would be eager to appoint someone with qualifications exceeding Arabian horse show judge to lead the nations emergency response efforts. Sadly, no. Because, after all, his unchallenged powers as Decider-In-Chief are far more important than competence and keeping Americans safe. I think the only thing worse that W's judgement is Bob's tie.
President Bush reserved the right to ignore key changes in Congress's overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- including a requirement to appoint someone with experience handling disasters as the agency's head -- in setting aside dozens of provisions contained in a major homeland security spending bill this week.
The standards for the FEMA director were inspired by criticism of former FEMA chief Michael D. Brown's performance after Hurricane Katrina last year. Brown, a lawyer and judge of Arabian horses, had no experience in disaster response before joining FEMA.
Besides objecting to Congress's list of qualifications for FEMA's director, the White House also claimed the right to edit or withhold reports to Congress by a watchdog agency within the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for protecting Americans' personal privacy.