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The Washington Post’s Terry Neal Raises the Level of Debate

Tuesday, September 6, 2005  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Apparently aware that the public isn’t buying the “blame Bush” movement, the Washington Post’s Terry Neal ups the ante by attacking the Secretary of State, whom we all know to be at the center of domestic natural disaster response:

Why was Condoleezza Rice, the administration’s highest ranking black official, grinning and guffawing at the Broadway show “Spamalot” and shopping for expensive shoes at Salvatore Ferragamo on Fifth Avenue days after the hurricane ravaged the Gulf Coast and left tens of thousands of poor black folks hungry, desperate and dying?

The better question than “Why was Secretary Rice shopping?” is “Wouldn’t we have been better off if Governor Blanco had been?”

Neal gets to the central point ten paragraphs in:

Local and state officials, you can’t escape scrutiny: Why didn’t you do a better job preparing for the process of evacuating people, given that this sort of disaster has been predicted for decades, and at least one previous study has shown that as many as a third of the residents of New Orleans would be reluctant to evacuate? Did you do everything in your power to prepare the police department, state law enforcements and other emergency services for this disastrous event?

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?

Can a federal official order a police department to deploy in strength to specific points within a city such as the Supredome or the Convention Center?

Can a federal official commandeer a city’s supply of school busses, city busses, and city personnel?

For starters, the police power resides in the states. There is no general federal police power. It is the power to take care of a citizenry’s health, safety and morals. It was described by Chief Justice Taney in the Licensee Cases this way:

But what are the police powers of a State? They are nothing more or less than the powers of government inherent in every sovereignty to the extent of its dominion. And whether a state passes a quarantine law, as a law to punish offenses, as to establish courts of justice, or requiring certain instruments to be recorded, as to regulate commerce within its own limits, in every case it exercises the same power; that is to say, the power of sovereignty, the power to govern men and things within the limits of its dominion.

“To the extent of its dominion,” is the key phrase. For the federal government to act in the face of a natural disaster, it’s help must be requested and its guidance accepted by the state and local officials.

“‘States are accorded wide latitude in the regulation of their local economies under their police powers,” the Supreme Court wrote in the 1976 case of New Orleans v. Dukes, and that wide latitude extends to every aspect of disaster planning (or non-planning.)

Every effort to blame Bush (or laughably Secretary Rice) is simply demagoguery, and whether born of ignorance or malice, injures the very people it purports to be offered on behalf of. My mail box is full of angry denuciations of the agenda journalism of Bush opponents dressed up as journalists –like Neal– who are swearing off assistance in this disater because of their anger of its twisting by amoral partisans seeking to score points off a natural disaster combined with towering incompetence of state and local officials.

That refusal to help is just as wrong as the agenda journalism of the MSM lefties and the posturing pols. The scale of the storm ought to have blown away all attempts at assigning culpability, but as the left shows no sign of recognizing what most of America has already figured out, then answers to their fake questions asked through crocodile tears should be given.

Where were you on Sunday and Monday and Tuesday, Terry Neal? Given your blasting of everyone involved, I suspect you were with the Coast Guard helos, or the Red Cross tent gang. Please let us know so we can have a moral giant to guide us in the future.

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