From managing Florida's disaster responses to the nation's, Craig Fugate is that rare government official who transcends partisanship and always seems to get the job done without much trouble.
Fugate worked for former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, then former Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist and now President Obama who tapped Fugate to lead FEMA in 2009. Along the way, the praise has followed.
And, in Obama's view, not enough of it has.
On Thursday, in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the president held Fugate up as example of what goes right in government that you don't read about. At Matthews prodding, Obama even made an oblique reference to one of Fugate's predecessors, Michael Brown, who was lauded by then-President George Bush for doing a "heckuva job" even when he didn't.
When it comes to the management of government-- part of the reason people are so skeptical is that-- when we do things right, they don't get a lot of attention. If we do somethin' that is perceived, at least initially, as a screw-up, it'll be on the nightly news for a week. So let's take the example of-- the Federal More-- Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. We got a guy-- who's been in charge-- Craig Fugate, who has managed as many natural disasters over the last five years as just about anybody and has done a flawless job.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: So he's really doin' a good job?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: He is doing--
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Not like his predecessor.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: He is doing-- he is-- he's doin' (LAUGH) a heckuva job. This-- this guy-- and-- and that's not just my opinion. That's-- that's the opinion of every governor and-- and mayor that works with him-- including Republicans. Well, y-- nobody knows who this guy is. And if, in fact, we go in after Sandy or after the tornadoes-- in Oklahoma or-- or Missouri and we're helping a lot of people effectively and quickly. And they're gettin' what they need. Nobody hears about that.
That's not-- that's not somethin' that's reported about. If, on the other hand, you've got an office in Cincinnati-- in the I.R.S. office that, I think, for bureaucratic reasons is tryin' to streamline what is a difficult law to interpret about whether-- nonprofit is actually a political organization deserves a tax exempt agency. And they've got a list. And suddenly, everybody's outraged.