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Making Waves on the Hill

    Perhaps no one should have expected the disgraced Michael Brown to fall on his sword, or, in this case, on his sharpened No. 2 pencil. But he didn't exactly burnish his superhero credentials yesterday by blaming everyone but himself for the FEMA fiasco. His biggest regret is that other people were such idiots. He said, "I very strongly, personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together." And Americans strongly, personally regret that in when a catastrophe hit our nation, the federal emergency chief turned out to be Barney Fife.

    Speaking of Barneys (what a deft transition!), I ran into Barney Frank yesterday in a hallway at the Rayburn building. He pointed out all the ways we use water metaphors in daily speech. Swamped by this, inundated by that, over our heads in some such matter, drowning in red ink, always foundering -- though I prefer to say floundering, for some reason.

    It is clear that Congress hasn't quite -- what's the phrase? -- got its sea legs on this Katrina problem. Everyone is throwing around legislation, but there is a palpable lack of direction, certainly nothing that would be called an "organizing principle." Other than the principle of spending lots of money. Pete Domenici stopped outside the Senate chamber and pleaded for some guidance from the White House. And McCain declared the system broken. He would love for the public to muster some outrage at the pork and just the general money culture of the Hill. The House conservatives, who hate the federal government, are sniping at their own GOP leadership. Something like the Michael Brown testimony is almost a smoke screen -- a political brush fire -- that obscures the serious wheeling, dealing, lobbying, and scrambling going on in all the various committees. Big money is at stake, and money is more powerful than ideology. Money creates its own private, walled off culture. What was that advice given years ago to a couple of reporters? Follow the money.

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 27, 2005; 8:48 PM ET
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