Now it's the Bushies who are blaming federalism!

A mostly political Weblog.
Sept. 11 2005 9:08 PM

Now, the Bushies Blame Federalism!

Plus--Judy Miller, looking for an out?

Instapundit's Katrina Relief donation list. 

ABC News has word of the Al Qaeda threat against Los Angeles. ...  Drudge has word of the Al Qaeda threat against Los Angeles. ... Brady Westwater's L.A. Cowboy has word of the Al Qaeda threat against Los Angeles! ... But five hours after it hit the Reuters wire you won't find out about it on the home page of the bloated, slow-moving, dinosaur-like monopoly newspaper of ... Los Angeles.  ...Update: Finally listed on the LAT's little AP scroll box as of noon, according to Westwater. ... Stark contrast: Melbourne, Australia, also threatened in the same Al Qaeda tape, has a newspaper that at least knows a front page story when it sees one. Meanwhile (as of 6:05 P.M.) the LAT is still listing the Al Qaeda threat in the "More News" box. ...  [Thanks to reader D.T.]11:45 A.M.

Obit writers are paying much too much attention to the actor who played "Gilligan" and too little attention to Maynard G. Krebs. Novelist Meghan Daum corrects the error, and makes some, yes, larger points (e.g., about beatniks vs. hippies vs. slackers). ... 11:45 A.M. 

Federalism, Fingered! Here's  our peculiar federalism problem in a nutshell  (from the NYT):

Interviews with officials in Washington and Louisiana show that as the situation grew worse, they were wrangling with questions of federal/state authority, weighing the realities of military logistics and perhaps talking past each other in the crisis.

To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Governor Blanco would have resisted surrendering control of the military relief mission as Bush Administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established. While troops can conduct relief missions without the legal authority of the Insurrection Act, Pentagon and military officials say that no active-duty forces could have been sent into the chaos of New Orleans on Wednesday or Thursday without confronting law-and-order challenges. [Emphasis added]

In fact, the story notes, Blanco did resist surrendering control. But why should the president have to invoke the Insurrection Act to send troops to save American citizens who are dying of thirst? Active duty troops were ready to move out on Sunday, the day before the storm hit, according to an Army officer. But thanks in large part to federalist sensitivity, the order never came. ..

Sure, the Bushies are using the federalism issue, and Louisiana's potentially bruised feelings, as an excuse--especially when they talk about how "it would have been perceived" if Bush had seized control of the relief effort "from the female governor of another party." (It would have been perceived as such a power grab that ... people would have put their heads out their windows and cheered.) Maybe there are other, more permissive intepretations of the relevant laws. But why should the Bushies even have the federalist excuse? Why should there be any doubt that the President can take command of a relief effort within our own country? Other countries, I suspect, don't have this hangup. Nor does private industry. Again, does UPS need to meet a special legal standard in court before it can take control of one of its branch offices? ...

P.S.: Ann Coulter says I should use the U.S. Postal Service, rather than UPS, as my example. Three responses: 1) USPS does manage to collect tax returns on April 15 and deliver lots of Christmas packages. Yes, there are lines. But if the Katrina relief effort had operated with the embarrassing inefficiency of the U.S. Postal Service--as opposed to the embarrassing inefficiency of the freeform federal/state/local legal seminar and negotiating session that actually took place--lots of people in New Orleans would still be alive today. 2) Does Coulter want to somehow privatize disaster relief? How does that work? Aren't there some things the government just has to do itself? The 82d Airborne, for example. Would a privatized relief agency be free to tell the governor of Louisiana to get lost in a way that President Bush can't? 3) Even if FEMA's work could be contracted out to Halliburton, that's no argument for putting unnecessary legalistic obstacles in the way of the government if we choose not to privatize. Yet that's what our federalism fetish does.

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