At first blush, it seems strange to commend someone for dismal performance. However, an email leaked by Brownie himself sheds new light on what Bush really meant. Brown actually was doing a good job -- but not at responding to the disaster. He was doing a good job of taking a beating.
The email with the subject "You and the President," written by a staffer of the Executive Office of the President (firstname.lastname@example.org) to Brown shortly after the disaster, said:
I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there, but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the President replied "I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff." Congratulations on doing a great job of diverting hostile fire away from the leader.That's right: instead of accepting responsibility for the failures of his administration himself, the chief executive let a lowly scapegoat take the heat! Although Bush is widely considered to be someone who rewards loyalty, he rewarded Brown by letting him be scoffed and derided by most of his fellow Americans for Bush's own shortcomings as a leader. With a patron like that, who needs detractors?