Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.A discussion needs to take place as to how long the federal government should wait before taking over incompetent state leadership in the setting of an obviously overwhelming disaster. I'm a big supporter of States rights, but there was an obvious failure here in state leadership. I think it's one of those 'slippery slopes' we here of so often.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.
A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.
Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.
"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."
Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.
Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."
I really love this gem from page four of the article:
Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) sent a letter to Bush Saturday urging him to provide cash benefits and transportation assistance to stranded people and to use federal facilities for housing. They wrote that they "are concerned that rescue and recovery efforts appear to remain chaotic and that many victims remain hungry and without adequate shelter nearly a week after the hurricane struck. Clearly, strong personal leadership from you is essential if we are to get this effort on track."Yes, you two little dears, you are correct.
The Feds should have stripped the state of their power to get these city-owned and controlled buses evacuating people before the disaster. We can all see the leadership failure here, I believe.