In a speech at the University assailing the Bush presidency, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin saved his sharpest barbs for the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

He said that the cycle of rewarding those who had failed in their duties – such as former CIA chief George Tenet – has continued. Levin said that the president recently praised Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, despite “FEMA’s deadly failure,” for the same reason he has praised other seemingly-inept officials:

“The administration fears that if anyone is demoted or fired, they will strike back at their bosses,” Levin said.

Brown has been relieved of his duties as FEMA director, but Levin criticized the administration for its lack of accountability toward national security. Speaking in front of 200 students, faculty and community members, Levin’s speech also touched on mistakes the government made in handling major security issues such as the war in Iraq and preventingSept. 11. “Too often the response from the administration has been a collective shrug of the shoulders,” Levin said, in reference to Bush’s handling of national security issues.

When asked if by accepting responsibility for mismanagement in the wake of Hurricane Katrina President Bush was beginning to take the notion of accountability more seriously, Levin responded, “I’ve got to be hopeful, but I can’t tell you I’m confident.”

The speech, which was delivered as the Josh Rosenthal Education Fund Lecture at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, mainly reiterated previously stated Democratic positions. Speaking before a mostly friendly audience, Levin minced few words regarding the current administration’s security policies.

Levin cited several issues that he said he believed illustrated the administration’s lack of accountability including pre-9-11 intelligence failures, and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Levin stated that these shortcomings were the result of “incompetence,” and that in the Bush administration “the buck gets passed and passed.”

Levin also pointed to the fact that no high-level officials have been reprimanded for poor post-combat planning in Iraq or for the mistreatment of detainees there. After praising U.S. forces on duty in Iraq, Levin said that, “the military’s performance is not matched by the administration’s in Washington.”

After speaking for about one hour, Levin took questions from the audience. One audience member accused Levin of dishonesty, saying, “Please don’t lie to us; own up to the truth.” The senator responded indignantly, insisting that all of his facts were verified in the 9/11 Commission Report and other government documents.

Several students said they attended because they were supporters of Senator Levin or the Democrats, but had mixed reactions to his speech. Echoing what has been a frequent complaint about the Democratic Party, LSA sophomore Matt Feldman, said Levin illustrated the problems but “didn’t really offer any solutions.”

 

 

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