FEMA Chief Craig Fugate: Is Obama's Fate In His Hands?

Craig Fugate FEMAStriking just a week before a presidential election, Hurricane Sandy could have been bad news for President Obama. The federal government doesn't have the cleanest record after all for swift and seamless natural disaster response. But so far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been roundly praised for its relief and recovery efforts, as has its Obama-appointed director, W. Craig Fugate.

Even Republican governors and mayors from Sandy-battered states have had nothing but kind words for FEMA and Fugate. "I have to say, the administration, the president himself and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far," New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie said on Tuesday's "Good Morning America." "He worked on that last night with me ... offered any other assets that we needed to help."

Fugate's home state of Florida trained him well for the post. The son of a Navy veteran, and orphaned by the age of 16, Fugate became a volunteer firefighter during high school in Gainesville, and attended Florida State Fire College. He went on to become a paramedic and fire department lieutenant, before spending a decade as the emergency manager for Alachua County in a basement office so tiny that he purportedly had to jump out of the way when somebody entered, so he wouldn't get bashed by the door.

Fugate then became the chief of the preparedness response bureau in Florida's Division of Emergency Management. Although a self-described Democrat, Fugate was appointed its director by then-Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001. In that position, he once handled the response to four hurricanes in six weeks ("The Big 4 of '04").

Fugate, 53, is a passionate University of Florida Gators fan, and as a disaster situation deteriorated, he was known to don increasingly beat-up Gators hats, Businessweek reported in a lengthy profile. Colleagues sing Fugate's praises, Jeb Bush telling Businessweek that Fugate is "an experienced and talented" emergency manager, sensitive to the relationship between federal and local relief, and R. David Paulison, Fugate's predecessor at FEMA, saying that "he's very calm" and driven by his desire to help victims, not politics.

Both Democrats and Republicans embraced him during his confirmation hearing, with several pointing out that Fugate's experience at the local and state levels of emergency response would better FEMA's dealings with municipalities. "Kudos to President Obama for a great choice," Bush said after Fugate's nomination.

Even so, it's impossible for FEMA -- a large federal agency still tainted by its clumsy response to Hurricane Katrina -- not to get tangled in the political weeds. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been interrogated over a remark that he made during a Republican primary debate last summer when he was asked whether states should take over more of FEMA's responsibilities.

"Absolutely," the former Massachusetts governor replied. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

Romney ignored repeated questions from reporters on Tuesday about whether he would actually abolish FEMA, while a Romney spokesman said in a statement that the Republican nominee would prefer states to lead disaster relief, but also believed that the federal government and FEMA had a role.

President Obama's 2013 budget would reduce FEMA funding by 3 percent, down to $13.5 billion, reports the Washington Post, and while Romney and Paul Ryan have not specified any cuts to FEMA itself, their plan to slash non-defense discretionary spending by 22 percent suggests more severe cutbacks.

Michael Brown, the FEMA chief during Hurricane Katrina, threw his own political punch at Obama on Monday. "One thing he's gonna be asked is, why did he jump on this so quickly and go back to D.C. so quickly when in ... Benghazi, he went to Las Vegas?" he said in an interview with Denver radio station KHOW. "At some point, somebody's going to ask that question.... This is like the inverse of Benghazi."

Many pointed out the irony of Brown, who resigned in disgrace 10 days after Katrina struck, criticizing the president for a response that he found to be too quick.

But so far, there have been no criticisms of FEMA's handling of Sandy's aftermath. As of Tuesday morning, FEMA had delivered more than 645,000 liters of water, 564,000 meals, and thousands of blankets and cots to the Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts and Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, reports the Huffington Post. It has also been working with state and local governments in search and rescue, debris cleanup, and power restoration.

"You know there was a lot of criticism of FEMA back in the Katrina days, and today you hear nothing but good things about FEMA, and they certainly have been very helpful to us," Mayor Bloomberg said during a Tuesday press conference. "I think the coordination between the city, state and the federal government has been as good as anybody has ever seen," he added. "And we appreciate the help of all of them."




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ELIZABETH

TYPICAL PROPAGANDA.................OBAMA IS A COMPLETE FARCE. HE HAS DONE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BUT PLAY GOLFAND INDULGING MICHELE AND HIS HUNDREDS OF HANGERS ON BY TAKING TRIPS EVERY FEW WEEKS TO THE TUNE OF LITERALLY BILLIONS AND BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. ALL ON THE BACKS OF THE POOR, UNEMPLOYED TAX PAYER. OUR PEOPLE ARE STARVING AND HE IS JET SETTING AROUND THE WORLD, HOB KNOBBING WITH THE RICH AND FAMOUS. WAKE UP AMERICA...... BY THE WAY, I DO NOT APPRECIATE RECEIVING SUCH BIASED NEWS FROM A BUNCH OF LIBERALS. I WILL BE CANCELING MY AOL E-MAIL ACCOUNT, REALLY TIRED OF THE LIBERAL AND DISHONEST PRESS.

November 02 2012 at 1:33 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ELIZABETH's comment
Niels

Good riddens you freak .keep your head where it belongs. up your

November 05 2012 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fred

I'd say no, cause he is in the hands of the devil.begined gromed daily.

November 01 2012 at 11:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
apollo6713

Katrina - Bush
Sandy - Obama

Obama/Biden 2012

November 01 2012 at 11:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
slick

The problem with Katrina was the Governor didnt contact FEMA early enough ......Dont blame Bush blame the Gov.

November 01 2012 at 10:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to slick's comment
apollo6713

You'e better get on target with your conservatives because they're now stating that Obama acted too quickly with Sandy: http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/10/30/1110901/bush-fema-director-katrina-hits-obama-sandy/?mobile=nc
Even though you all keep trying, you can't have it both ways.

November 01 2012 at 11:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rosefio

Oh thats right Bush and the Whitehouse didn't have televisions showing the complete devastation of New Orleans by Katrina that the rest of the world was watching and aware of.

November 05 2012 at 9:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laura

If this guy hits a home run, Obama has hit too many foul balls durring his term for it to make any difference.

November 01 2012 at 9:05 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
MR weaver king

obama had four years to do his job , dont blame this man for obama's failures.

November 01 2012 at 7:54 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Bruce

If indeed Obama's political fate rests in Fugate's hands, he'll be a shoe-in for reelection. Just TRY to compare the response to THIS storm to the bureaucratic clusterf*ck that took place during Katrina, brought to you by "W" and "The Gang Who Couldn't Shoort Straight"! Bravo, Mr. Fugate-- and double bravo to the President who filled the FEMA position with a capable administrator, rather than a paid political hack! (Uh, that would be YOU, "Brownie"...

November 01 2012 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
davandsher

Øbama should have a large footprint on his backside after the mess he made of Medicare. For all of you who don't know, With Øbamacare, there are seven new taxes on people who make under two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year

November 01 2012 at 7:28 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
davandsher

Yesterdays News.

November 01 2012 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tyrell Vance

I'm working on a new record, and vote in all fifty (57) states.

November 01 2012 at 7:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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