"The President couldn't have chosen a better man," outgoing FEMA Director Joe Allsbaugh declared when Brown was appointed to head the agency early in 2003. If you want to be charitable, chalk that sound bite up to loyalty and not judgment: Allsbaugh was an longtime friend who brought Brown into the fold at FEMA in 2001. But from the beginning Brown was an odd fit for the job, having spent the prior decade as the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. His dearth of emergency management experience was glaringly exposed when Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast. FEMA's sluggish response to the crisis deepened the devastation, while Bush did his own reputation little good by congratulating the overmatched bureaucrat with a hearty "Heckuva job, Brownie." It may have been the single most damaging phrase of his presidency.
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