Back on September 6th, the new War on Weather was a Tom Tomorrow political cartoon. [If that link doesn't work, try this one.] But the Bush administration is running a little low on ideas, so they are turning to some unusual sources. For example, the other day Bush's speech writers cribbed from a Naomi Klein Op-Ed piece for Bush's weekly radio address. If you read the Klein piece, the policies described in this passage from Bush's speech sound like they are paraphrased from Klein:
. . . the vision of a revitalized New Orleans should come from the people of New Orleans, and the vision of a new Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama should come from the people of those states. We will do everything we can to guide the recovery effort, and help them realize their vision so that communities along the Gulf Coast are better and stronger than before the storm.
Surely, he doesn't mean what she meant about letting the people rebuild New Orleans, but it sure sounds good, doesn't it?
But when White House strategists dipped into the Tom Tomorrow brain trust, the failed to notice that the War on Weather was supposed to be a joke.
But not only that, this borrowing of ideas from the left (serious or not) seems to be getting the President in hot water with conservatives. It seems that what he is proposing violates the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which prohibits the military from acting as a police force within the United States borders. Congress made an exception to the Act to allow for the use of the military in the "war on drugs" (see why they called it that?). And since 9/11, the White House has been angling for a loosening of the acts restrictions (and that's why they called efforts to prevent terrorism "the war on terror"). This is from yesterday's CNN article:
Gene Healy, a senior editor at the conservative Cato Institute, said Bush risks undermining "a fundamental principle of American law" by tinkering with the Posse Comitatus Act.
Healy said the act does not hinder the military's ability to respond to a crisis.
"What it does is set a high bar for the use of federal troops in a policing role," he wrote in a commentary on the group's Web site. "That reflects America's traditional distrust of using standing armies to enforce order at home, a distrust that's well-justified."
Healy said soldiers are not trained as police officers, and putting them in a civilian law enforcement role "can result in serious collateral damage to American life and liberty."
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, told The Associated Press he would not favor expanding the federal government's disaster response role.
"I don't want the federal government to take over disaster response, believe me," DeLay told the AP. "Why? Bureaucracy. Bureaucracy. Bureaucracy."
I have a hard time understanding what it is that the Republican party still stands for if it is quite this easy for the Bush administration to discuss circumventing governors entirely and sending in the marines in the event of an "emergency." How elastic a definition can "emergency" have? When did states rights pass so thoroughly from the agenda?
High Country Conservative remarks:
I wonder whatever become of the concept of Federalism, once a major component of the Republican agenda. It seems that more and more agencies and government actions are being put under federal control. This, of course, give much more power to Washington, and vastly decreases the rights of the states.
Is this a conscious abandonment of the principle of federalism? Or is this whole line of thought just desperate ass-covering by an administration in freefall, indicative only of the ferocity of attempts to deflect blame to the locals?
(Anyone notice the extent to which the act was violated during the response to Katrina? Wasn't the whole rhetoric about sending in the military primarily concerned with restoring law and order? Certainly, having the military go in to replace the Fish & Wildlife Service, who had been defacto first responders in some areas rescuing people from their roofs, was an improvement. But to what extent were military forces acting as rescue workers, and to what extent as policemen? To hear the conservative bloggers tell it, policing the place was their main reason for being there. But I was paying more attention to what Blackwater was up to than the regular military, so I'm not sure what the real story is on the Posse Comitatus Act and New Orleans.)
Or is it some kind of power fantasy? The whole notion of domestic militarization on this scale is hard to take seriously as policy. The 9/11 timelines, as concern Donald Rumsfeld, do not suggest that he would have reacted a lot faster than the slow-poke in charge of Homeland Security if faced with the Katrina disaster. Nor do Rumsfeld's failures to meet US goals (capturing Bin Laden? flowering democracies) in Afghanistan and Iraq make for a promising disaster management resume. But it is an idea with tremendous virility!
Just imagine the grand War on Weather. Donald astride his horse, in full military splendor, tilting at hurricanes.
UPDATE 9/28: After perusing posts using the word "Federalism" on Technorati, I am amused to report that the wingnut spin-of-the-day is that Democrats and Liberals are to blame for Bush's proposed attack on states' rights because we made him feel bad by suggesting that he take blame.
MEANWHILE, Karl Rove, busy creating his own more palatable reality, warns against "complacency."
UPDATE 9/30: Jeb Bush, writing in the Washington Post, comes out against federalizing (i. e. militarizing) disaster response. Perhaps that is the end of that.