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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

DU Discovers Bush's Attempt To Take Over

Earlier many people were commenting that the Feds should have taken over New Orleans quite quickly (e.g. Dingo). I argued that the feds needed permission from the state authorities, and that Posse Comitatus limited the ability of the military to do law enforcement anyway. The state authorities (Blanco) could have given Bush authority to move National Guard troops in and take over the operation, but she didn't. The Insurrection Act does allow the President to move on his own authority, but Governor Blanco was not rebelling against the federal government. I pointed out that a President had never, in the absence of an actual rebellion or defiance of some other federal law, invaded a state and that I thought if Bush had, he would have precipitated a constitutional crisis.

Well, in Bush's speech he mentioned a broader role for the military and implied that he would work with Congress to arrange that. DU has exploded with wrath over this. The original post says, in part:
Bush made it clear in his speech that the Administration is STILL going to try to use the Katrina disaster to grab more power. It would be another big step in their ongoing push toward suspension of the Constitution and Pentagon-directed military police and gutted civilian and states' rights. This has been a major goal of theirs for years - it can be documented step by step, for example the Patriot Act. (Of course this demand for ultimate Fed power centralization is also part of the strategy to blame the local and state authorities for the mass negligent homicide - it is saying in effect, "Just give us feds all the power and then you will all be safe!!!")

12. They've wanted to do that for years. They see this as their big chance.
I'm betting that one reason (there were several) that the Administration withheld aid after the storm was to try to make the local and state authorities look as bad as possible before they then swept in dramatically and "saved the day."

111. I believe the Bush Administration is itching for an excuse to declare wider martial law, now that it has its vicious, murderous foothold in New Orleans.
I believe that we should not change the Posse Comitatus rules or even attempt to change the DoD's current understanding of them. DU seems to be justifying its outrage over this sentence in the speech by claiming that Bush already had the authority to intervene in NO. Well, if he did, nothing else would be required for him to "take over" any state. Whether he did have the authority is highly doubtful, but I am pretty sure the Pentagon thought he didn't. In any case, if the president is going to send in troops he will have to declare martial law.

This is all getting ridiculous, but Congress should make the decision, not the President. My vote is no. Posse Comitatus stands. Blanco could have authorized Bush to come in there. The tradeoff for maintaining a free society is some responsibility for your own fate. It is up to the citizenry of each state to ensure that their state and local authorities conduct themselves effectively in preparing and responding to disasters, and that includes authorizing things like this. There is no bright line here. If the President can act solely on his own authority, sooner or later that power will be misused. Think Nixon.

I have to say that those who are simultaneously blaming Bush for not invading Louisiana while claiming that he has a dark secret agenda to take over the entire country are fools. This includes people like William Arkin of the Washington Post blog:
Warner, the long-standing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is either confusing the President's inadequate response with legal handcuffs that don't actually exist, or he's playing the oldest Washington game in the book: asking the Defense Department to do something it already wants to do. I'm betting the latter.

Nothing in law prevents the President from employing the military in a Katrina-like emergency if state and local government really breaks down. In fact, the 130-year-old Posse Comitatus Act more symbolizes the military's subordination to civil authority than it actually restricts what the military can do.
Note the jibe at the military. It's the 60's all over again. I expect to see Kerry appear on one of the New Orleans bridges any moment now. Accompanied by a posse of reporters, he will hurl someone else's medals into the floodwaters below as a way of protesting both President Bush's craven refusal to act and President Bush's powermad attempts to arrange a legal pretext for acting in a similar future situation. Then he will make a speech, which everyone will be too stoned to follow (all the reporters, at least). Jane Fonda will fire up the Crisco bus and a crowd of adoring Communists will follow her through the streets of New Orleans for the Autumn Of Blithering in New Orleans.

I am absolutely sure that the DOD didn't want to go in. What was needed was to shoot a bunch of people to restore order so that aid could get in and people could be transported out. I do not think the DOD wanted to play that role. I want to remind anyone reading this that on Tuesday, police were pinned down in at least one station by gunfire, helicopters trying to survey the levee breaches were being shot at, and the Red Cross did not go in because they did not feel secure, with which reasoning the local authorities agreed.

The question in New Orleans was who got to decide whether state and local government had really broken down? Apparently the governor did not want to concede that the state had lost control and turn control of the situation to the feds. But this is the fundamental issue at stake. Who decides? If the state decides, then constitutional divisions of power stand. If the President is allowed to overrule the state, then a fundamental breach of the Constitution has occurred.

Senator Lindsay Graham, (from the above link) gets it right:
Contrast his statement with the thoughts of cooler headed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is also a lawyer in the Air Force reserve. "I am not comfortable with suspending local laws and state laws and allowing American military people to come into any community, arrest people and seize property, unless there is a very good reason," Graham told FOX News Sunday. "The Posse Comitatus Act goes back to the 1880's in our history, and it's a prohibition against the federal military coming in and taking over a local community or a state and becoming law enforcement officers," he added. Graham said we might have to look at the laws to make sure the military "can provide assistance" when needed. "But we should not allow the federal government, willy-nilly, to take over state and local functions in terms of law enforcement."
Exactly. The fact that liberals seem to be able to ignore the legal restriction for the purposes of blaming Bush while being able to see the dangers of changing the law to permit what they claim Bush should have done demonstrates either their insanity or their perverted agenda. Here we are touching on the basic divisions of authority within our country. I don't believe we should make such changes lightly.

Maybe Cindy Sheehan is right.

Let's pull the National Guard and Army out of 'occupied New Orleans.' I'm quite sure they can handle things down there on their own.

Well, the people there shouldn't be blamed for her bad behavior.

But I know what you mean.
"I pointed out that a President had never, in the absence of an actual rebellion or defiance of some other federal law, invaded a state and that I thought if Bush had, he would have precipitated a constitutional crisis."

Perhaps one exception here is when Gov. George Wallace used his National Guard to block the integration of the University of Alabama in defiance of a court order. President Kennedy used the Insurrection Act to assume control of the local Guard and have them implement the integration order.
Fizzix, that was an insurrection. That's the point. This was done several times during the civil rights era, but on occasions when the state authorities were trying to circumvent federal law (and SC decisions).
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