FEMA looked to be all set to bounce back from the bafflingly horrid response to Katrina by tackling the California wildfires when the in-house Department of Stupid Ideas piped up to make the agency look like a bunch of crooked buffoons all over again.
Capt. Ed calls for everyone involved to be canned, and I don't disagree. This was fakery only for the joy of fakery and completely unnecessary.
As for the White House reaction: "it is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House. We certainly don't condone it" (Dana Perino), I would strongly quibble. Executive branch agencies have been caught manipulating the media in similar ways throughout the Bush administration. Remember ace reporter Karen Ryan sending out pro-administration "news reports" to local stations? Remember Armstrong Williams accepting federal money to promote No Child Left Behind? Or Jeff Gannon, working for Bush's Texas cronies' Talon News, lobbing softballs at Scottie McClellan before hopping into the West Wing for hang out time with his buddies?
I can't imagine why FEMA personnel engaged in this type of fakery in the aftermath of a successful response to a serious disaster in a very populous state except that this type of behavior appears to be built into the Bush administration's operational DNA. Happily, it was caught quickly, but unhappily, even if everyone involved is canned, we're stuck with the same playbook for another year.