Accountability for the Oil Spill

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The other day, I noted in this post that one thing distinguishing the Obama administration from its predecessor is the generally high quality of the staff responsible for disaster response--in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and the Gulf. In light of today's news that the Interior Department official who oversees the Mineral Management Service will be resigning, it's worth nothing that getting rid of those who perform poorly is another way in which the current administration differs from the last. During much of the Bush administration, officials who screwed up or otherwise brought ignominy on the White House rarely were forced to resign. I profiled one of them, former Enron executive and Army Secretary Thomas White, who, when I spent time with him in the wake of the Enron scandal, seemed as incredulous as everyone else did that he was still around. One notable exception to this tendency, though, was the notorious FEMA director Michael "Brownie" Brown. Just ten days after being told by President Bush that he was doing "a heckuva job" responding to Hurricane Katrina, Brownie was forced out under pressure.

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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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