President Bush's push to give the military a bigger role in responding to major disasters like Hurricane Katrina could lead to a loosening of legal limits on the use of federal troops on U.S. soil.
...Bush did not define the wider role he envisions for the military...
At question, however, is how far to push the military role, which by law may not include actions that can be defined as law enforcement _ stopping traffic, searching people, seizing property or making arrests. That prohibition is spelled out in the Posse Comitatus Act of enacted after the Civil War mainly to prevent federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states.
Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, "I believe the time has come that we reflect on the Posse Comitatus Act." He advocated giving the president and the secretary of defense "correct standby authorities" to manage disasters.
...Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is reviewing a wide range of possible changes in the way the military could be used in domestic emergencies, spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Friday. He said these included possible changes in the relationship between federal and state military authorities.
Under the existing relationship, a state's governor is chiefly responsible for disaster preparedness and response.
Governors can request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If federal armed forces are brought in to help, they do so in support of FEMA...
Di Rita said Rumsfeld has not made recommendations to Bush, but among the issues he is examining is the viability of the Posse Comitatus Act. Di Rita called it one of the "very archaic laws" from a different era in U.S. history that limits the Pentagon's flexibility in responding to 21st century domestic crises.
Another such law, Di Rita said, is the Civil War-era Insurrection Act, which Bush could have invoked to waive the law enforcement restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act. That would have enabled him to use either National Guard soldiers or active-duty troops _ or both _ to quell the looting and other lawlessness that broke out in New Orleans.
The Insurrection Act lets the president call troops into federal action inside the United States whenever "unlawful obstructions, combinations or assemblages _ or rebellion against the authority of the United States _ make it impracticable to enforce the laws" in any state.
The political problem in Katrina was that Bush would have had to impose federal command over the wishes of two governors _ Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana and Haley Barbour of Mississippi _ who made it clear they wanted to retain state control...
The president was not originally intended to have anywhere near the powers that position currently has, and it looks like Bush is trying to take advantage of Katrina to grab even more power, and power of the dangerous kind.
On Monday Sep. 12 he:
urged Congress to examine whether the White House needs stronger powers to deal with catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina.
Bush's backing for the congressional inquiry raised the possibility that lawmakers might expand presidential authority to:
* Order mandatory civilian evacuations
* Dispatch U.S.-based armed forces for emergency search-and-rescue operations
* Grant wider leeway for active-duty U.S. military personnel to carry out law enforcement operations.
Then, from Bush's Katrina speech:
It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces - the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.
For the sake of the republic, no.
Pausing from this site's incessant Bush-bashing, we present this article for your consideration.
The MSNBC article "Katrina forecasters were remarkably accurate" (subtitled "Levee breaks, catastrophic damage predicted, contrary to Bush claims") has an overview of the weather-related timeline and warnings. Plus, it manages to sneak in some anti-Bush asides:
For all the criticism of the Bush administration's confused response to Hurricane Katrina, at least two federal agencies got it right: the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center.
Here are some of their points:
- Aug. 28: while in Crawford, Bush watched a Max Mayfield presentation
- Aug. 29: National Hurricane Center issued warning with "SOME LEVEES IN THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA COULD BE OVERTOPPED". (MSNBC points out that was in capitals, but I guess they all are)
- Sep. 1: Bush says, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"
Mayfield and Paul Trotter, the meteorologist in charge of the Slidell office, both refused to criticize the federal response.
But Mayfield said: "The fact that we had a major hurricane forecast over or near New Orleans is reason for great concern. The local and state emergency management knew that as well as FEMA did."
Mayfield also did something he rarely does before a hurricane hits: He personally called the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin two days ahead of time to warn them about the monstrous hurricane. Nagin has said he ordered an evacuation because Mayfield's call "scared the hell" out of him.
Also, for you Rick Santorum fans:
AccuWeather Inc. senior meteorologist Michael Steinberg said emergency managers and the public could have been given an earlier warning of Katrina's threat to New Orleans. He said the private company had issued forecasts nearly 12 hours earlier than the hurricane center warning that Katrina was aiming at the area.
From Sid Blumenthal:
Bush's America is gone with the wind. It lasted just short of four years, from Sept. 11, 2001, to Aug. 29, 2005...
...Bush's entire presidency and reelection campaign were organized around one master idea: He stood as the protector and savior of the American people under siege. On this mystique he built his persona as a decisive man of conviction and action. In the 2004 election, a critical mass of voters believed that because of his unabashed patriotism and unembarrassed religiosity he would do more to protect the country. They also believed that his fervor must be strength. The criticism of Bush that he was overzealous, simplistic and single-minded only served to reinforce his image...
Reading the rest requires you to sit through an ad. But, don't you know already what he's going to say?
Michael Tackett of the Chicago Tribune offers "Bush speech was part Franklin Roosevelt, part Lyndon Johnson":
Throughout his nationally broadcast address from a shattered New Orleans, it was as though the disaster of Hurricane Katrina had transformed the president from the logical heir to Ronald Reagan to some curious amalgam of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
He offered up a relief program that seemed to draw reconstruction inspiration from the Marshall Plan, the Works Progress Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority and social policy animated by the Great Society...
..."History is sometimes the moment a bell rings," said Douglas Brinkley, a historian and professor at the University of New Orleans. "He had a historic opportunity to seize this and become a great leader and he bobbled it not just once but four or five times. This is a speech that needed to have been delivered within days of the hurricane."
Tardy perhaps, and freighted with potential problems even within his own Republican Party, the president's recovery plan called for a new alphabet soup of government initiatives (Gulf Opportunity Zones, Worker Recovery Accounts, an Urban Homesteading Act) that sounded like pages taken from the New Deal. Stung by charges that the government might have been slow to respond because of racism, he even emphasized the need for, in effect, minority set-aside programs to be a major part of the rebuilding...
Some Republicans are wondering how Bush is going to pay for buying himself out of a hole in "G.O.P. Split Over Big Plans for Storm Spending":
...One fiscal conservative, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said Thursday, "I don't believe that everything that should happen in Louisiana should be paid for by the rest of the country. I believe there are certain responsibilities that are due the people of Louisiana."
Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, called for restoring "sanity" to the federal recovery effort. Congress has approved $62 billion, mostly to cover costs already incurred, and the price tag is rising. The House and Senate approved tax relief Thursday at an estimated cost of more than $5 billion on top of $3.5 billion in housing vouchers approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
"We know we need to help, but throwing more and more money without accountability at this is not going to solve the problem," Mr. DeMint said...
"We know this is a huge bill," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. "We don't want to lay it on future generations."
...After the speech, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert acknowledged that the price tag means that "for every dollar we spend on this, it is going to take a little bit longer to balance the budget." He said he was willing to listen to ideas to pay for the aid, but, "Quite frankly, we have to get this job done."
..."There has never been a time where there is more total spending and more wasteful spending in Washington than we have today," said Pat Toomey, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and the head of the conservative Club for Growth. "There is ample opportunity to find the offsets we need so that this does not have to be a fiscal disaster as well as a natural disaster."
Tucker to Chris Matthews:
"The principal that people are poor because they're discriminated against and the federal government can set that right by social spending . . . is a liberal idea. . . . This is what liberals say -- it's not at all what conservatives say -- and the conservatives watching the speech tonight who noticed that line are sitting bolt upright right now and thinking, did I just hear him say that?
..."Conservatives don't believe that. And to hear a purportedly conservative president say that is unprecedented. . . . And I think it's going to annoy the hell out of his base."
It's been obvious to me for a long time that Bush manages to combine the worst features of "liberalism" (pandering, etc.) with the worst features of "conservatism" (the Armageddon Army, etc.) into a vaguely incoherent, generally corrupt and un-American whole. But, that's just me.
The WaPo has a you-already-knew-all-this analysis entitled "A Bid to Repair a Presidency":
...[much deleted]... Bush's advisers hope that, despite the partisan finger-pointing over what happened, most Americans are not looking back and will judge the president on what happens going forward...
Oh yeah, that'll happen.
The era of big government is back. President Bush is presiding over what is sure to be the most expensive government relief and reconstruction operation in U.S. history.
With estimates of the federal tab ranging up to $200 billion for rebuilding New Orleans and other storm-ravaged Gulf Coast cities, Bush and his Republican allies in Congress are casting aside budget discipline...
...[The Heritage Foundation] has proposed that Congress reopen the $286.4 billion transportation bill enacted in July to remove some $25 billion in what it deems questionable projects, including a proposed $230 million bridge in Alaska from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents...
Pausing briefly to request a bigger money-shovel:
"[The $62.3 billion already spent is] a good start, but victims need more," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said as Democrats worked to ensure they weren't left on the sidelines in the rush by the GOP-led Congress to open the government's wallets to storm victims.
Now, compare these pre-Bush-speech ideas to what was in Bush's speech:
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., proposed that Congress create a Gulf Coast Redevelopment Authority, modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority, to oversee the reconstruction. TVA, created during the Depression as an independent federal agency, is widely credited with the revitalization of the seven-state Tennessee Valley region.
Other lawmakers have called for a domestic version of the Marshall Plan that helped revive Europe after World War II, or something akin to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Work Projects Administration, which put millions of unemployed people to work _ mainly on road, bridge and dam projects _ during the Great Depression of the 1930s...
In his speech, Bush proposed a Gulf Opportunity Zone, Worker Recovery Accounts, and an Urban Homesteading Act.