Friday, September 16, 2005

Erosion Politics

A week ago I wrote:
One fallout from this disaster, as much as anything else, is that Governor Blanco's incompetence has weakened state power from this point on; because now the Federal Government will assume the power to flatten local power, even when it is corrupt and the local government is efficient.
Instapundit points to a line in Bush's speech of 9/15 that worries him along a similar line:
Yet the system at every level of government, was not well coordinated and was overwhelmed in the first few days. 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.
After which he comments: "He's talking about logistics here, but it's not clear that's all he's talking about. I'd certainly oppose a repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act."

I can't imagine that this potential erosion of State's rights is going to be popular among any conservatives. Though according to the AP Bush and assorted Pentagon officials are examining just that.
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. Pentagon officials are reviewing that possibility, and some in Congress agree it needs to be considered.

Bush did not define the wider role he envisions for the military. But in his speech to the nation from New Orleans on Thursday, he alluded to the unmatched ability of federal troops to provide supplies, equipment, communications, transportation and other assets the military lumps under the label of "logistics."

The president called the military "the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice."

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.

Presidents have long been reluctant to deploy U.S. troops domestically, leery of the image of federal troops patrolling in their own country or of embarrassing state and local officials.
Not to mention upsetting Cindy, the conscious holder of the anti-war left.

But seriously. It seems a terrible shame that the confused actions of an incompetent Governor potentially will lead to a disempowerment of State's rights. This one is not going to be like the Patriot Act. It's going to lead to a very real change in the structural formation of our government.

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