So Brownie (Michael Brown formerly of FEMA, for those of you who have been smoking crack in a basement for the last year), was on The Colbert Report last night. While he wasn’t quite the embarrassment I was afraid he would be, he did make me think about the notion of blame, and the bloodlust Americans have for laying it at someone’s feet. Colbert, in his odd way, touched on this, but didn‚Äôt pursue it.
The problem with Brownie isn’t the fact that he was a colossal failure (which he was) or that DHS is a bureaucratic disaster (which makes it stand out in comparison to the rest of the federal government in what way?). The trouble is we, as a people, like closure. We crave it.
Colbert: you were doing something good for a while. You took the blame.
[W]e as a country had to blame somebody and move on.
Colbert is exactly right. We need someone to blame, so we can feel better. If it‚Äôs not Brown, then who is it? Brown had some ideas.
Colbert: [A]ll right. So who — who is the person to blame? Because we have to blame one person. Right? One person’s head has got to roll, and yours won’t seem to lop off. So who is the one better than you to blame? Do you blame Chertoff?
Brown: I’d like to.
Nearly Headless Brown is denying us our fix. He has broken out the blamethrower to avoid responsibility for FEMA‚Äôs and the government‚Äôs failures.
That’s our problem with Brown, and by extension, with the Administration. It’s never anyone’s fault – which is sadly accurate. The federal government has become so big, so bloated, and so ineffective, that it is unlikely anything it touches will be altered for the better. That has nothing to do with any one individual.
We want it to, though. We‚Äôre not prepared to accept the inadequacies of government are to blame. It has to be a person. We saw the government‚Äôs failure every night on our TV. We had picked out our fall guy – FEMA. We knew where to lay the blame. Yet the President stood next to the guy in charge of FEMA, and praised the “great job” he was doing.
Americans don’t like the concept of blameless blunders – even if their own tendency to demand more and more from government is the real culprit. They need a face. They need to see someone get fired, and it needs to happen publicly. It’s stupid, but it’s true. Michael Brown had to be that guy. We wanted him to be fired. We needed him to be fired. We demand our pound of flesh. We‚Äôre a twisted people, and we have our rules.
Look at The Apprentice. This is a program devoted to the concept of firing the guy who screwed up the worst, and promoting the guy that screwed up the least. It’s not a show based on hiring the best possible candidate, it’s a show based on hiring the guy that didn’t fuq up bad enough to get fired. The entire premise of the show is laying blame for failure.
Colbert: [Y]ou were the scapegoat for a while, but it’s no good if the goat wanders back into town and starts pointing fingers at people.
He‚Äôs right, again. Brownie’s romp through Comedy Central, and continued attempts to blame others, have further denied us our craving.
In this case, and many others, people are turning on the Administration. I believe this is solely because they have been denied their craving for accountability. There is plenty going wrong to warrant a good round of terminations. We can’t get them, though, because the Administration values loyalty above anything else. That makes us angry.
While much has been made of Andy Card‚Äôs departure, I do not believe this will be the round of layoffs people are expecting to see. I still believe that has more to do with fatigue than an attempt to placate the masses. We‚Äôre going to have to wait a little longer for our fall guy.
We‚Äôre not happy about that.