Mr. Altshuler and Mr. Rhode had worked in the White House's Office of National Advance Operations. Those are the people who decide where the president will stand on stage and which loyal supporters will be permitted into the audience - and how many firefighters will be diverted from rescue duty to surround the president as he patrols the New Orleans airport trying to look busy. Mr. Morris was a press handler with the Bush presidential campaign. Previously, he worked for the company that produced Bush campaign commercials.
So when Mr. Brown finally got around to asking Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff for extra people for Katrina, it wasn't much of a departure for Mr. Brown to say that one of the things he wanted them to do was to "convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public." We'd like them to stay focused on conveying food, water and medical help to victims.
The Time's goes on though, in a strikingly partisan manner.
Political patronage has always been a hallmark of Washington life. But President Bill Clinton appointed political pals at FEMA who actually knew something about disaster management. The former FEMA director James Lee Witt, whose tenure is widely considered a major success, was a friend of Mr. Clinton's when he took office in 1993, but he had run the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services. His top staff came from regional FEMA offices.
Of course, Bill Clinton put far more important agency's into the hands of his incompetent friends. Witness Madelaine Albright at the State Department, Janet Reno at the Justice Department, and Andrew Cuomo at HUD, Hazel O'Leary at Energy, and of course, Ron Brown at Commerce.