Blanco had some less than kind words for Brown... WASHINGTON - Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco will appear before a Senate panel this morning, but she's already come out swinging against former FEMA head Michael Brown. Blanco takes strong exception to a charge by Brown that she waited until the eve of the storm to order an evacuation of New Orleans. She says Brown's comment clearly demonstrates what she says is the "appalling degree" to which he's "out of touch with the truth or reality." During testimony before a special House panel yesterday, Brown defended his handling of Hurricane Katrina. And he laid blame for what went wrong on Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and even the White House. For his part, Nagin says it's too early to get into "name blame" but he says "a FEMA director in Washington trying to deflect attention is unbelievable." On Tuesday, a combative Michael Brown blamed the Louisiana governor, the New Orleans mayor and even the Bush White House that appointed him for the dismal response to Hurricane Katrina in a fiery appearance Tuesday before Congress. In response, lawmakers alternately lambasted and mocked the former FEMA director. House members' scorching treatment of Brown, in a hearing stretching nearly 6 1/2 hours, underscored how he has become an emblem of the deaths, lingering floods and stranded survivors after the Aug. 29 storm. Brown resigned Sept. 12 after being relieved of his onsite command of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response effort three days earlier. "I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shays (news, bio, voting record), R-Conn. "Because that kind of, you know, look in the lights like a deer tells me that you weren't capable to do the job." "You get an F-minus in my book," said Rep. Gene Taylor (news, bio, voting record), D-Miss. At several points, Brown turned red in the face and slapped the table in front of him. "So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans," Brown said. "What I wanted you to do is do your job and coordinate," Shays retorted. Well aware of President Bush's sunken poll ratings, legislators of both parties tried to distance themselves from the federal preparations for Katrina and the storm's aftermath that together claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Brown acknowledged making mistakes during the storm and subsequent flooding that devastated the Gulf Coast. But he accused New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, both Democrats, of fostering chaos and failing to order a mandatory evacuation more than a day before Katrina hit. "My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," Brown told a special panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe. Most Democrats, seeking an independent investigation, stayed away to protest what they called an unfair probe of the Republican administration by GOP lawmakers. "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," Brown said. "I just couldn't pull that off." Brown also said he warned Bush, White House chief of staff Andrew Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin that "this is going to be a bad one" in e-mails and phone conversations leading up to the storm. Under pointed questioning, he said some needs outlined to the White House, Pentagon and Homeland Security Department were not answered in "the timeline that we requested." Blanco vehemently denied that she waited until the eve of the storm to order an evacuation of New Orleans. She said her order came on the morning of Aug. 27 two days before the storm resulting in 1.3 million people evacuating the city. "Such falsehoods and misleading statements, made under oath before Congress, are shocking," Blanco said in a statement. In New Orleans, Nagin said that "it's too early to get into name-blame and all that stuff" but that "a FEMA director in Washington trying to deflect attention is unbelievable to me." White House spokesman Scott McClellan urged Congress to undertake "a thorough investigation of what went wrong and what went right and look at lessons learned." Brown, who remains on FEMA's payroll for two more weeks before he leaves his annual $148,000 post, rejected accusations that he was inexperienced for the job he held for more than two years during which he oversaw 150 presidentially declared disasters. Before joining FEMA in 2001, he was an attorney, held local government posts and headed the International Arabian Horse Association. "I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said. He said FEMA coordinates and manages disaster relief, but the emergency first response is the job of state and local authorities. Brown also said the agency was stretched too thin to respond to a catastrophe of Katrina's size. "We were prepared but overwhelmed is the best way I can put it," he said. Brown described FEMA as a politically powerless arm of Homeland Security, which he said had siphoned more than $77 million from his agency over the past three years. Additionally, he said Homeland Security cut FEMA budget requests including one for hurricane preparedness before they were ever presented to Congress. Rep. Harold Rogers (news, bio, voting record), R-Ky., who oversees House spending on homeland security operations, said Congress has approved spending levels for FEMA and other preparedness programs far above requests. In Miami, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters that Brown "speaks for himself and he's entitled to his point of view, and I don't have anything to add." Brown's defiant demeanor Tuesday mirrored his comments after being dismissed from overseeing the Katrina response, when he accused the news media of making him a scapegoat and blamed local officials for the uncoordinated response. He had been "just tired and misspoke" when a television interviewer appeared to be the first to tell him that there were desperate residents at the New Orleans Convention Center, and testified he had already learned the day before that people were flocking there. No longer needing to maintain a cordial relationship with Congress, Brown didn't hesitate to punch back at lawmakers who questioned whether the government would learn from mistakes before the next disaster strikes. "I know what death and destruction is and I know how much people suffer," Brown told Taylor. "And it breaks my heart. I pray for these people every night. So don't lecture me about knowing what disaster is like." Yet Brown struck a conciliatory tone with Rep. Kay Granger (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, who chastised him for not seeking fiscal or oversight help from Congress before the storm. "I don't know how you can sleep at night," Granger said. "You lost the battle." Brown, his voice dropping slightly, responded: "I probably should have just resigned my post earlier and gone public with some of these things because I have a great admiration for the men and women of FEMA and what they do, and they don't deserve what they've been getting."