September 9, 2005


Political Issues Snarled Plans for Troop Aid (ERIC LIPTON, ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER, 9/09/05, NY Times)

As New Orleans descended into chaos last week and Louisiana's governor asked for 40,000 soldiers, President Bush's senior advisers debated whether the president should speed the arrival of active-duty troops by seizing control of the hurricane relief mission from the governor.

For reasons of practicality and politics, officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon, and then at the White House, decided not to urge Mr. Bush to take command of the effort. Instead, the Washington officials decided to rely on the growing number of National Guard personnel flowing into Louisiana, who were under Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's control.

The debate began after officials realized that Hurricane Katrina had exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated.

As criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina has mounted, one of the most pointed questions has been why more troops were not available more quickly to restore order and offer aid.

Can't wait to see Democrats in Congress hand the White House power to keep the military poised to sieze and control majority black and Democrat-controlled cities any time it rains hard enough....

MORE (via Gene Brown):
Who Calls the Cavalry?: The Pentagon was prepared for Hurricane Katrina. (DANIEL HENNINGER , September 9, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Once disaster arrives, several federal laws designed to protect state sovereignty from being swept aside by a Latin-American-style national police force dictate that a state's officials, specifically the governor, is supposed to phone the federal government and describe what they need. If asked by Homeland Security, DoD will send in the cavalry. But this is one audible at the line even Don Rumsfeld doesn't get to call.

Post-mortem investigations will surely re-create, minute by minute, how Louisiana Gov. Blanco and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff idled away their time last week. But it appears now that Gov. Blanco did not make that crucial, early, legally mandated call to the President. Absent that, Fox and CNN became the call to the White House. The media message was "do something!" In fact, the president does have "do something" authority. It's called the Insurrection Act, which is what John Kennedy used in 1963 against Gov. George Wallace, ordering the governor's own National Guard to turn against him and forcibly integrate the University of Alabama. As to the looters, who were breaking no evident federal law, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 explicitly forbids using the military (unless a governor uses her National Guard under "state status") in a domestic police function.

The question raised by the Katrina fiasco--and by the Pentagon's new Homeland Defense Strategy to protect against WMD attack--is whether the threat from madmen and nature is now sufficiently huge in its potential horror and unacceptable loss that we should modify existing jurisdictional authority to give the Pentagon functional first-responder status. Should we repeal or modify the Posse Comitatus Act so homicidal thugs have more to fear than the Keystone Kops? Should a governor be able to phone the Defense Secretary direct, creating a kind of "yellow-light authority" and cutting out the Homeland Security or FEMA middleman? Should presidential initiative extend beyond the Insurrection Act?

Instinct says the answer is forever no. Survival suggests we had better talk about it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 9, 2005 6:33 AM

I got the feeling the lady guv wanted the troops sent to her, not deployed by the commander-in- chief with the military in charge of them.

The elected officials in LA don't seems to have even the most fleeting grasp of civics.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 9, 2005 8:52 AM

The Democrats will write into their version of the legislation that if President Bush or any future leader oversteps their bounds, Mary Landrieu will be authorized by Congress to punch them in the face.

Posted by: John at September 9, 2005 8:59 AM

Two words : "Posse Comitatus"

Posted by: J.H. at September 9, 2005 9:16 AM

"the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated."

In my best Inigo Montoya voice: "Incapacitated? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. I think you mean incompetent"

Posted by: Rick T. at September 9, 2005 9:16 AM

"the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire, and medical personnel would be incapacitated".

Maybe so but the plan probably assumes that local officials are up to the task and take the proper actions before the storm hits. Remember the flood happened Tuesday. Evacuating the city, putting supplies at the Superdome/Convention Center, and better use of the LANG could have been done before the storm.

This is the MSM, typified by the NYT, trying to shift the blame to Bush for inaction at the local level.

Posted by: AWW at September 9, 2005 9:20 AM

The Posse Comitatus Act is strictly statutory and can be changed anytime Congress desires.

Posted by: Bob at September 9, 2005 9:38 AM

However, Posse Comitatus is based on Art. IV Sec 4. of the Constitution:

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

I don't think we should abondon the Constitution whenever the NYTimes thinks it convienent.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 9, 2005 1:53 PM