I’ve been quiet most of the weekend due to matters of family health – it seems many members of my family have “health related” issues that are either diagnosed (my FIL’s stroke) or as-yet-unknown (my elder son and me). I’m not getting into details – my elder son is very private and would not appreciate it. Suffice to say, if you could whisper up a prayer or two for “J” as we head to doctors and tests tomorrow, I would be very grateful.
Having said that, I had the unfortunately experience of being forced to spend 90 minutes in the company of a distant relative with whom I have shared too many inane conversations focusing on her shoes, her haircolor, her cholestrol and her best-friend-up-in-Canada whom I have never met. Normally, when circumstances permit this woman to breeze in, I find myself seated next to her because…well, because frankly no one else wants to sit beside her, and I get stuck…and I usually find I can treat her sometimes mind-numbing treatises with good humor as long as the wine if flowing. Tonight, however, there was no wine – there was only this distant relative who – as it turns out (we have never discussed politics before) is your basic union-dues paying member of the Democratic party, who “always suspected” I had left the fold – and this is how the conversation went:
“Bush should have gone in and saved those people; he let them die. He should have saved them.”
I patiently explained that in a disaster, the local and state governments are first and foremost responsible for ensuring the safety of their citizens, that National Hurrican Center Director Max Mayfield has said he called Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco and begged them to evacuate ahead of the storm. That Blanco herself said President Bush urged her to sound an evacuation, that somehow over 500 buses did not get used to evacuate those people, and the Red Cross and Salvation Army have said – repeatedly – that the STATE HSD folks would not allow them in…
“Bush should have saved those people – he screwed up.”
I asked what – if any – thoughts she had about the unused schoolbuses, the disallowed relief to the Superdome.
“Bush should have saved those people. He screwed up. When he saw what was going on, he should have moved in and done it.”
I asked this relative if she was aware that the President brings in the Feds at the invitation of the Governor-that he has no authority allowing him to simply glide in and take over a state.
“Yeah, so they SAY! Tell the truth! He should have just gone in and saved them! It’s not always up to the local and state governments! In a disaster it’s up to the feds!”
I asked her if she was familiar with the constitution. I also asked her to consider how Florida had handled four big hurricanes last year without chaos, “because,” I said, “the state and local governments worked.”
“Yeah, well, Jeb is a lot smarter than Chimpy. And by the way who is taking in most of the refugees? TEXAS! And who used to be the governor of Texas? BUSH!”
I gasped, stunned. “What does THAT have to do with anything? He’s not Gov. of Texas now!”
“Yeah, well, he probably told the Texas Governor to take those people in to make him look good. Because he shoulda gone in and saved those people.”
I looked at her and lost all hope. She really, really has no idea, no comprehension, of what Mayors and Governors and Presidents do.
“Tell the truth,” I said. “If Bush HAD ‘gone in and saved those people,’ you’d be sitting here right now telling me that Bush had no business usurping the local and state government, that he’d proved himself to be a tyrannical nazi all-too willing to walk over a state’s soveriegnty, and you’d be calling for his impeachment.”
“Yeah, I would -” she admitted. “Because he should have saved those people, and not cared that we’d impeach him for it later!”
“So…you’re saying that a president you HATE…should have the power to go into a state and take it over? Is that what you’re saying?”
There was a brief silence. “Weeelllllll…..”
“You don’t think that sets a dangerous precedent? What if the next president is someone you hate more than Bush – do you think he should be able to just go into any state and do what he wants?”
“Well, only if people are dying!”
“People died on 9/11 – should the president have flown in the feds and taken control away from Giuliani and Pataki?”
“Welll, I mean only if people are dying and it’s out of control! Giuliani and Pataki did everything right!”
“Ah, so you admit, that Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco did not do everything right?”
“No, they did everything right, too! They did everything they could and Bush screwed up!”
“But…but…if Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco did everything right…how did New Orleans get out of control?”
“It got out of control because Bush screwed up. He should have just gone in and saved those people…”
I steered the subject to her new shoes (“oh, you like them? I do too, I liked them so much I bought them in red, white, black, tan and silver!”) and the crisis passed. But next time, I told my husband, I’m sitting on the other side of the table and talking electronics with her husband. I know NOTHING about electronics, but I’ll do it.
I took some comfort in finding these two posts, tonight. One from SCA and one from Maxed Out Mama, and both on the same subject:
Maxed Out Mama on the Insurrection Act:
no president has invoked these powers purely by his own decision. In the case of civil rights uses, the Executive was enforcing either Congress’s legislative act or the Supreme Court’s decision. In those cases, the local authorities were actually in defiance of US law. In the case of New Orleans, the local authorities were not.
Think of the worst president in your lifetime (no need to specify your pick). Think of the worst president that you can imagine. Do you think that such a president should have the authority to take over a state simply because he believes the local authorities are being ineffective? I do not. Remember, the distinction here is between sending in federal resources in response to a request versus taking control of the situation by what is essentially armed force, which has been forbidden under these circumstances since after the Civil War. Furthermore, a President can’t simply send in troops without a clear line of command, especially in a situation like this.
Sigh….did my heart good to read that after having that oddball conversation.
It is quite possible that the feds could have taken over and evacuated more of the city before the storm hit, but to do so they would have needed to be in control of disaster planning. They would also have needed to have an infrastructure of shelters and resupply points set up in LA as a whole. To do that they would have had to be in control in LA months before to do what the locals weren’t doing. Do you really believe that the federal government is going to be that much more effective than the locals all over the country? I don’t. Furthermore, the effort to get significant help into the most devastated areas in other parts of the Gulf Coast took a similar length of time.
Fresh air….fresh air!
I imagine our relative had not seen Mary Landrieu this morning explaining that the undeployed schoolbuses could not be used because “they are underwater,” or she would have used that line with me…and too, she might have claimed (as Landrieu does) that state and local authorities did nothing wrong, because “Bush rolled the dice and cut funding…” Except that he spent more money on New Orleans than Clinton did but “Clinton was working with a deficit from 12 years of Republican rule and Bush was working with a surplus!”
I guess I’ve got that whole “we had a surplus under Clinton but we’ve had a deficit under Bush” thing backward….