I can't begin to sort through all of the events on the Gulf Coast of the past week that have mangaged to sweep everything, including the unfolding Iraq quagmire, out of the headlines. A big question now is, who is to blame for the disaster? Presumably that list is large and includes several people in Louisiana. It is possible that the Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and Governer Blanco of Louisiana will pay with their political careers.
It looks as if President Bush, who allowed himself to be photographed while playin' a guitar the day the levies gave way, may pay a political price as well-- although his allies are in full damage control mode. Christopher Ruddy, taking a break from solving the Ron Brown murder, finds time to make excuses for the president. Ruddy delivers a brief lesson on federalism and then notes that after all that the "Federal Emergency Management Agency, was created only in 1979." Well gee, I guess they are still trying to figure out how the copier works and find a place to plug in the coffee pot.
Hugh Hewitt, who has as much critical distance from the president as Karl Rove, also plays up the federalism angle:
It is possible that Neal doesn't know basic American government. It is obvious quite a few folks don't. Brendon Loy, who has done an amazing job posting this week, brought a 2L's passion to his denunciation of various federal officials, but if he was a student in my ConLaw class, I'd ask him, and allother commentators the following questions:
What is the "police power?"
Where does it reside?
Is there a federal "police power?"
Can the federal government order the evacuation of a city when state and local officials have not done so?
Who has first call on a state's national guard?
Who controls a city's police department?
Are Hewitt and Ruddy so deluded that they believe that the president and his advisors carefully read through the Constitution and the opinions of Learned Hand before deciding if they have the power to act? Bush had no concerns about federalism when he signed the No Child Left Behind Act, or when they went to the Supreme Court to override state governing the use of medical marijuana.
The real issue concerns the President's leadership. It is hard to imagine any other plausible president -- Clinton, Gore, Kerry, McCain, Buchanan -- dithering the way that President Bush did in the aftermath of the hurricane. If Louisiana state officials were dragging their feet; I'm sure that President McCain, for example, would have got on the horn and found out what the hell the problem was, instead of waiting for paperwork to be filled out in triplicate. I doubt that President Kerry would stand around, patting his FEMA director on the back, or look forward to sittin' on Trent Lott's porch while people were still dying.
There is going to be much discussion of the proper role of the Federal Government in the coming weeks. I would like to see it get out of many areas, starting with education and trying to run the rest of the world (What clause of the Constitution authorized the Coalition Provisional Authority, Hugh?). But as long as it has the resources, rescuing people from major natural disasters seems like a good thing. When the feds are done with that, they might take a look at that southern border.