Congress Grills Michael Brown

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Michael Brown testifies during a hearing before the House Select Hurricane Katrina Committee on Capitol Hill September 27, 2005 in Washington, DC. The full committee met to hear testimony on FEMA's response to Hurrican Katrina.
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Former FEMA director Michael Brown blamed others for most government failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday, especially Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He aggressively defended his own role.

CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr reports that Brown pointedly

for a delayed and then uncoordinated evacuation.

"The failure to evacuate... was the tipping point for all of the other things that either went wrong or were exacerbated," Brown said.

CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports that while the city's initial evacuation plan was clearly inadequate, Mayor Nagin blasted FEMA's attempt at help after the storm.

Nagin said it was "unbelievable" to hear Brown try to deflect the blame and said that "things spiraled" after FEMA officials made promises that "weren't kept."

Nagin said, "We were saving lives, rescuing people, trying to evacuate them. It was hectic." He said, "the feds, local, state, all across the board, did not have the processes to deal with a storm of this magnitude."

"Obviously, Mr. Brown is maybe under a lot of pressure. I feel kinda sorry for him, I guess," Nagin said.

Brown said that in the days before the storm, he expressed his concerns that "this is going to be a bad one" in phone conversations and e-mails with President Bush, White House chief of staff Andy Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin.

And he blamed the Department of Homeland Security — the parent agency for the Federal Emergency Management Agency — for not acquiring better equipment ahead of the storm.

His efforts to shift blame drew sharp criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.

"I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. "That kind of look in the lights like a deer tells me you weren't capable of doing that job."

"I have come to the conclusion that this administration values loyalty more than anything else ... more than competence or frankly more than the truth," Shays said.

Meanwhile, President Bush and Governor Blanco ignored a reporter's shouted question about Brown as they inspected damage from Hurricane Rita in Louisiana.

Alfonsi reports that while Blanco ignored questions about the President's former appointee, her spokesman spoke up, saying Michael Brown was just not engaged and that "he should have been watching CNN instead of the Disney Channel."

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., told Brown: "The disconnect was, people thought there was some federal expertise out there. There wasn't. Not from you."

Brown appeared before a special congressional panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," two days before the storm hit, Brown said.

Brown, who for many became a symbol of government failures in the natural disaster that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, rejected accusations that he was too inexperienced for the job.

"I've overseen over 150 presidentially-declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said.

Brown resigned earlier this month after being removed by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff from on-site responsibility.

"He speaks for himself and he's entitled to his point of view and I don't have anything to add," Chertoff told reporters in Miami.