Entry: Demanding Dictatorship in Katrina's Wake? Wednesday, September 07, 2005



Probably the most astonishing result of Hurricane Katrina so far has been the overall reaction of the Left. I don't mean the whining criticisms or the politicising of tragedy for political purposes, however -- those Liberal reactions are par for the course in any situation. Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch was at his most honest when he said that "it's fair game for the Democrats to attack the president at this time. They want to win the House next year." What amazes me is that the same people who have spent four years accusing President Bush of shredding the Constitution and mounting a military coup in America seem to be angry with him... because he didn't shred the Constitution and mount a military coup.

The most persistent Liberal and Democrat attacks concerning the aftermath of Katrina have been that "the government" (by which they mean the federal government) was too slow to take charge of the situation. According to the critics, Bush should have immediately sent the US military into New Orleans to keep order, taken personal command of the National Guard and directed relief efforts on the scene from the moment the levee gave way. FEMA should have assumed direct control over all police, fire crews, EMTs and other first responders.

In other words, Liberals seem to feel that the rights and responsibilities of state and local governments can and should be taken away by the federal government in emergency situations. But that's exactly what the Constitution was designed to prevent.

More than anything else, the Founders feared an all-powerful central government dictating to the states and citizens. The United States is supposed to be a federal republic, not a centralised totalitarian government. The President has no authority to command state militia (or the modern substitute, National Guard units) without permission of the state governor to whom they report. He cannot order the evacuation of a city. He cannot simply assume command over the local and state governments. He certainly cannot send the US military to take control of a city or state except in case of insurrection. And the last thing the looters in New Orleans were doing was setting up their own secessionist government.

"Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
-
US Code, Title 18, Section 1385

The Posse Comitatas Act of 1878 forbids the President from using the US military to enforce the law without an Act of Congress. Posse comitatus, or "all possible force," refers to the power of a sheriff to call upon every able-bodied man in his county to help apprehend a criminal. (The things you learn from watching old Westerns...) The President can not similarly use "all possible force" to enforce the law, because doing so would be equivalent to declaring martial law in the United States.

Exceptions to the law, aside from suppressing insurrections, include assisting drug enforcement agencies or during emergencies involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), there is no exception for a local or state government failing to respond properly to a crisis. State and local officials failed to evacuate the citizens, declined to quell the looting and other crimes being committed, and even refused permission for the Red Cross to bring food and water to the people packed into the Superdome and Convention Center. The Red Cross explains on their web site that "The state Homeland Security Department had requested... that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city." Without the governor's permission to act, the federal government was effectively hamstrung.

Louisiana Governor Kathy Blanco could have requested federal help, but would not sign the authorisation to allow it, even after the situation had descended into total chaos. "Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans," the Washington Post reported. "The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law." Governor Blanco decided to maintain final authority over the situation in New Orleans. With that authority comes responsibility for the results -- good or bad.

Every person who complains because the federal government did not take control of the New Orleans situation -- despite the governor's refusal to give permission -- is advocating a far more powerful federal government than we should ever want. The burden of response to local disasters rests on local elected officials while they choose to retain their authority. The federal government cannot intervene unless specifically requested to do so. To suggest otherwise is to invite a military dictatorship.

   17 comments

Jamie
September 7, 2005   11:10 PM PDT
 
Right you are. President Bush is not a dictator. And, because of the internet, the msm cannot keep all of the facts at bay. The tragedy is all too evident. The politicization is too obvious.

As usual, there are the certain players running around playing politics with the disaster, making accusations, demanding commissions, firings, etc., in an attempt to tarnish the President and FEMA. But they had better watch what they ask for, because I don't think any of them will like the results.
Logipundit
September 7, 2005   11:37 PM PDT
 
Very well put Cav...

As usual.

Make it a great day.
John
September 7, 2005   11:39 PM PDT
 
You're right AGAIN, Joe. As Patrick Henry opined, "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

We are a system of laws, NOT of personalities or situational ethics.

The "Fathers", I believe, had more foresight than many would admit.
Juliet
September 8, 2005   11:29 PM PDT
 
I love this place.
TCM
September 9, 2005   04:34 AM PDT
 
As usual, Cavalier has hit the nail on the head. Even with advance warning of what was to come, the imcompetent local government completely botched things in New Orleans, then pointed the finger at the Bush administration, knowing that the liberal media would jump on the bandwagon to shift the blame. The looting, political grandstanding, and all the fly-by-night scam operations make the whole Katrina situation even worse. At least many people really are going all out to help the victims, including several celebrities who are raising money and awareness, and even buying supplies with their own money and searching for victims with their own hands. Even other nations are sending help, including Mexico, who has not sent military personnel onto US soil for over a century. I just hope the lessons of Katrina will not be forgotten as soon as New Orleans and Mississippi fall off the headlines.
James
September 9, 2005   08:30 AM PDT
 
You're really off the mark on this one, not only historically speaking in times of disaster (did the President have to "take over" any other state during a hurricane in order for FEMA to take over? No) but also in what FEMA's role really is.

Perhaps if you read what those who actually know have to say about FEMA's role, you may better understand:

On Aug. 26, Louisiana’s governor signed a declaration of a state of emergency.

In response, on Aug. 27, Bush declared officially a state of emergency in Louisiana and his press office announced: “The president’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster-relief efforts . . . to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures . . . to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe . . . . ”

(On Sept. 5, The Washington Post printed a correction, but is still protecting the identity of its apparently intentionally misinforming senior Bush leaker.)

Former FEMA officials flatly reject the Bush Team’s effort to shift the blame to state and local officials for the federal government’s late action and non-action in Louisiana.

“They can’t do that,” Jane Bullock, who had a 22-year career at FEMA, told the Los Angeles Times, referring to Bush administration attempts to shift responsibility to state and local officials. “The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility. ... The federal government took ownership over the response.”

http://tinyurl.com/78ls6

Why would you make this political in the first place? This is about national security. When it's a terror attack and perhaps the mayor is killed along with his/her citizens, it'll be your kids and old people dying in the streets from starvation because the federal government failed to act.

JM
September 9, 2005   09:38 AM PDT
 
>did the President have to "take
>over" any other state during a
>hurricane in order for FEMA to
>take over? No

Of course not. The governors of those states declared a state of emergency and requested federal assistance.

>On Aug. 26, Louisiana’s governor
>signed a declaration of a state of
>emergency.

No, she didn't. She requested that President Bush declare LA a disaster area, which he promptly did.

>“The president’s action authorizes
>the Department of Homeland
>Security, Federal Emergency
>Management Agency (FEMA), to
>coordinate all disaster-relief
>efforts

Precisely! FEMA coordinates disaster relief efforts. COORDINATES!!

>“The moment the president
>declared a federal disaster, it
>became a federal responsibility.

No, the President cannot simply take over a state by declaration. Haven't you read a single word of the entry you're commenting on? Don't you know anything about the Constitution and the law?

>Why would you make this political
>in the first place?

Finding out what went wrong and trying to fix it is not making it politicial. Attempting to use a disaster like this to attack President Bush because of partisan hatred IS, however.

>When it's a terror attack

A terror attack is not a natural disaster but, you know, an ATTACK, and calls for a federal response to an outside threat.
DL
September 9, 2005   11:08 AM PDT
 
Details, facts, evidence, correctness, all become irrelevant with this crowd. They see those things as the folly of the right. With them, the end justifies the means - they will do whatever it takes to get back power -destroy anyone who is in their way, corrupt any institution, use any argument.
The lack concern about their hypocrisy - their lack of shame - their failure to really care about their fown people -they are merely means to an end.
Paladin
September 9, 2005   05:23 PM PDT
 
aawww come on folks. It's just to much fun to blame the prez for everything. Besides in doing that you can hide ALL your own screw ups. Just like they're doing down south : ).
Yofione
September 10, 2005   03:21 AM PDT
 
Chain of Responsibility

In case you aren't familiar with how our government is SUPPOSED to work: The chain of responsibility for the protection of the citizens in New Orleans is:

1. The Mayor
2. The New Orleans director of Homeland Security (a political appointee of
the Governor who reports to the Governor)
3. The Governor
4. The Head of Homeland Security
5. The President

What did each do?

1. The mayor, with 5 days advance, waited until 2 days before he announced a
mandatory evacuation (at the behest of the President). Then he failed to
provide transportation for those without transport even though he had
hundreds of buses at his disposal.

2. The New Orleans director of Homeland Security failed to have any plan for
a contingency that has been talked about for 50 years. Then he blames the
Feds for not doing what he should have done. (So much for political
appointees)

3. The Governor, despite a declaration of disaster by the President 2 DAYS
BEFORE the storm hit, failed to take advantage of the offer of Federal
troops and aid Until 2 DAYS AFTER the storm hit.

4. The Director of Homeland Security positioned assets in the area to be
ready when the Governor called for them.

5. The President urged a mandatory evacuation, and even declared a disaster
State of Emergency, freeing up millions of dollars of federal assistance,
should the Governor decide to use it.

Oh and by the way, the levees that broke were the responsibility of the
local landowners and the local levee board to maintain, NOT THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT.

The disaster in New Orleans is what you get after decades of corrupt
(democrat) government going all the way back to Huey Long.

Funds for disaster protection and relief have been flowing into this city
for decades, and where has it gone, but into the pockets of the politicians
and their friends.

Decades of socialist government in New Orleans has sapped all self reliance
from the community, and made them dependent upon government for every little
thing.

Political correctness and a lack of will to fight crime have created the
single most corrupt police force in the country, and has permitted gang
violence to flourish.

The sad thing is that there are many poor folks who have suffered and died
needlessly because those that they voted into office failed them.

For those who missed item 5 (where the President's level of accountability
is discussed), it is made more clear in a New Orleans Times-Picayune article
dated August 28:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - In the face of a catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, a
mandatory evacuation was ordered Sunday for New Orleans by Mayor Ray Nagin.

Acknowledging that large numbers of people, many of them stranded tourists,
would be unable to leave, The city set up 10 places of last resort for
people to go, including the Superdome. Without providing supplies, like
water, MRE's.

"Advanced" preparation totally lacking, (but paid for by the Federal
government years before), to "help" during major "potential" catastrophes
was completely absent, as were the "officials" from New Orleans, who are supposed to supervise these events. They evacuated!

The federal monies went to help fund the casinos, and traffic to and from,
and to enrich the friends of the politicians who benefited from the federal
largesse.

The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the
city should. He exempted hotels from the evacuation order because airlines
had already cancelled all flights.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said
President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for
the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.

The ball was placed in Mayor Nagin's court to carry out the evacuation
order. With 5-day heads-up, he had the authority to use any and all
services to evacuate all residents from the city, as documented in a city
emergency preparedness plan. By waiting until the last minute, and failing
to make full use of resources available within city limits, Nagin and his
administration screwed up.

Mayor Nagin and his emergency sidekick Terry Ebbert have displayed lethal,
mind boggling incompetence before, during and after Katrina.

As for Mayor Nagin, he and his profile in pathetic leadership police chief
should resign. That city's government is incompetent from one end to the
other. The people of New Orleans deserve better than this crowd of clowns is
capable of giving them.

If you're keeping track, these boobs let 569 buses that could have carried
33,350 people out of New Orleans-in one trip-get ruined in the floods.
Whatever plan these guys had, it was a dud. Or it probably would have been
if they'd bothered to follow it.

As for all the race-baiting rhetoric and Bush-bashing coming from prominent
blacks on the left, don't expect Ray Nagin to be called out on the carpet
for falling short. You want to know why? Here's why:

It's more convenient to blame a white president for what went wrong than to
hold a black mayor and his administration accountable for gross negligence
and failing to fully carry out an established emergency preparedness plan.

To hold Nagin and his administration accountable for dropping the ball
amounts to letting loose the shouts and cries of "Racism!". It's sad, it's
wrong, but it's standard operating procedure for the media and left-wing
black leadership.

You will not hear a word of criticism from Jesse Jackson Sr., Randall
Robinson, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, or Kanye West being
directed toward Clarence Ray Nagin Jr. Why? Because he is just another black
politician instead of a responsible elected official who happens to be
black. In the mindset of more-blacker-than-thou blacks, black politicians
who are on their side can do no wrong.

Jewels
September 15, 2005   10:37 AM PDT
 
Geez, Cav. All the times I've seen you on Hawkins' site, why didn't I ever come on over here?!

RE: your post- this is exactly what I've been saying. Only much more eloquently spoken.

Nice site. Good writing. My apologies (and regrets) for not showing up sooner.
Jewels
September 15, 2005   10:43 AM PDT
 
::"Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans," the Washington Post reported.

BTW- I was wondering this earlier when I heard about it way back when. Is it common for Presidents to have to send governors offers for help during natural disasters? Don't governors usually go to the feds asking for help, not the other way around?

It appears as if Bush saw the problem, waited as long as he could for the request, then made the offer out of concern that nothing was getting accomplished. Am I off?
JM
September 15, 2005   08:17 PM PDT
 
>Nice site. Good writing.

Thanks. :)
JM
September 15, 2005   08:18 PM PDT
 
>Is it common for Presidents to
>have to send governors offers for
>help

I really don't think so. Bush was practically begging her to let the feds help.
RED32
September 15, 2005   11:26 PM PDT
 
The moment the President declared a federal disaster (2 days before the storm hit) is when this “Chain of command” went straight to the top and Homeland Security took over responsibility. How do I know this? Hmmm, it says it on their website. http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/theme_home2.jsp

Also on the Homeland Security Website it says

"In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS."
JM
September 16, 2005   02:49 AM PDT
 
Once again, RED32, since you apparently declined to read the entry and know nothing of the Constitution or the law, the federal government cannot invade a sovereign state at will. The governor must specifically request the federal government to take over. No President has the legal power to take over a state by declaration. No bureaucratic rulebook has the power to override the Constitution or the law. How many times must this stupid meme of yours be refuted?
Maureen
October 21, 2005   08:09 PM PDT
 
You area absolutly right!!! Anyone who blames this on anyone other then the governor of New Orleans is an idiot!!! she should have sent in busses to get these people out!! Any Governor of any state is responsible for the people there, that's why they are elected. o blame the president is insane!!!

People need to take responsibility for themselves and for those around them. I had a flood in my bathroom, should I blame the President for being unprepard??

I think not!!!

M.

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