Thanks to Paul Hamilton of Wizbang Blue, I discovered this analysis of a recent Bush Adminstration National Security Presidential Directive on dealing with governmental contiguity after a major disaster.
Once I cut through the hysteria, I came away with two conclusions.
The first is, this is precisely the sort of thing that Bush’s critics have been demanding of him. Witness how the federal response to two natural disasters has been slammed — the Greensburg tornado and Hurricane Katrina. In both cases, the administration was savaged for its “slow response” to the destruction. In both cases, though, the critics forgot that under pesky, annoying restraints like the law and the Constitution, the federal government is constrained from intervening without the consent of the state government. As a check on federal power and a recognition of state’s rights, the role of the federal government is curtailed unless and until the governor of the state officially asks for help. In both cases, the sitting governor (ironically, both Democrats named Kathleen) has to say the magic words before the federal government can intervene.
To do so otherwise would be to grant the President the authority to essentially federalize an entire state and set aside the duly elected local officials. “Sorry, governor, this mess in one city is too much for you to handle. We’re gonna put you and the legislature and your courts and your police on the bench while we step in and run things — just for the duration of the emergency, of course. If we need you, we’ll let you know and tell you just what you gotta do.”
The second conclusion I came to was a bit less sarcastic. As someone who grew up in the Cold War, the Directive sounded vaguely familiar — it reminded me of stuff I read about the government’s plans in case of an all-out nuclear attack. The chances of that happening now are pretty much non-existent (thank you, President Reagan — we owe you far more than we knew when you left office), but the possibility of a single massive, devastating incident is no longer a purely theoretical exercise in this modern world — and as New Orleans showed us all, it doesn’t require the malice of man to happen.
The directive, as I read the thing, is NOT a blueprint for tyranny. The very second sentence reads:
This policy establishes “National Essential Functions,” prescribes continuity requirements for all executive departments and agencies, and provides guidance for State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector organizations in order to ensure a comprehensive and integrated national continuity program that will enhance the credibility of our national security posture and enable a more rapid and effective response to and recovery from a national emergency.
So we have the President — the Chief Executive, the head of the Executive Branch — “prescrib(ing) continuity requirements for all executive departments and agencies,” but “provid(ing) guidance for State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector organizations.” The first part uses mandatory language, while the second is purely advisory and non-compulsory.
As a certain golden ‘droid might say, “we’re doomed!” (And about as accurately.)
It turns out that this document, on my reading, is a reasoned — and reasonable — response to the criticisms of the Bush administration over the two aforementioned natural disasters. Someone looked at the old plans for handling a nuclear attack, dusted them off, and updated them. (Somewhat better than Les Nessman did with his “Communists attack” scenario when Cincinnati was hit by tornadoes.)
So, at what point does the “Progressive” movement grow tired of being hysterical ninnies?