Former FEMA Director Faces Toughest Critics

The man who came to personify the problems with federal hurricane aid is telling his side of the story.  Michael Brown resigned as the head of FEMA after scathing criticism of his agency's response to victims of hurricane Katrina. He told a house panel today that much of the criticism is undeserved.

Former FEMA director Michael Brown faced a mostly Republican panel of congressmen . Their mission: to find out what went wrong and what went right after hurricane Katrina.

Brown admitted he made mistakes -- failing to regularly brief the media and calling Louisiana officials "dysfunctional."

Brown said, " I very strongly personally regret that Iwas unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin, to sit down and get over differences and work together. I just couldn't pull that off. I want this committee to know FEMA pushed forward with everything it had, every team, every asset it had, in order to help what we saw as potentially catastrophic disaster."

President Bush said, "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie." Brown came to symbolize the failures of the federal response. President Bush's public support of him despite his inability to quickly move resources to New Orleans' Convention Center and Superdome, compound the major questions about his qualifications.

Brown said, "I've overseen more than 150 presidential declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I do a pretty good job of it."

Outside the hearing room, House Democrats called the hearing a sham -- a so-called bipartisan committee with no democratic members.

Louise Slaughter, Democratic representative of New York said, "We have no reason to believe that that Republicans will investigate themselves." :

Republicans say whether there ends up being an independent commission, Congress needs to exercise oversight and begin an investigation while memories are fresh.