Along the same lines, for those wondering why the Feds didn’t take over:
State Rebuffed Security Overture
Bid to Put Louisiana Troops
Under U.S. Command Came
Amid New Orleans Chaos
By JOHN D. MCKINNON
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
September 9, 2005; Page A13
Parts of New Orleans became so dangerous last week that the Bush administration briefly sought to take control of local law enforcement to quell the violence and get help to victims.
The administration sent Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco a proposed memorandum of understanding last Friday, raising the possibility that the federal government would take command of the Louisiana National Guard to strengthen law-enforcement efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, according to officials in the Bush administration and the governor’s office. In a series of telephone conversations with the White House on Saturday morning, the governor’s office refused.
The memorandum amounted to a White House request for a federal takeover of local law enforcement, said Denise Bottcher, the governor’s spokeswoman.
Gov. Blanco, in a letter to the White House on Saturday morning, said she would retain control of her state’s National Guard troops, and requested the creation a federal joint task force that combined regular military and National Guard units. “Our response was ‘no’ to federalization, and let’s have this instead,” said Ms. Bottcher.
As the White House and state officials were discussing alternatives Friday – the day President Bush first visited the storm-devastated Gulf Coast – the violence in New Orleans began to subside amid a show of force by National Guard soldiers. That helped speed the evacuations of the Louisiana Superdome and the city’s convention center, two sites where violence had erupted in the crowds of evacuees.
The Bush administration ultimately dropped the idea of a federal takeover of law enforcement.
By invoking the Insurrection Act, a president can use the military – including federalized National Guard troops – to quell civil disturbances. Under normal circumstances, regular military forces aren’t allowed to engage in such law-enforcement activities. As the situation deteriorated in New Orleans last week, the White House weighed whether to use the military for law enforcement, an administration official said.
On Sept. 1, Gov. Blanco said that she needed 40,000 more troops, regardless of whether they were regular Army or National Guard troops. “I’ve actually asked for uniformed troops of any sort,” she said. She added that she preferred to have more National Guard troops, according Ms. Bottcher.
In a letter to the president last Friday, she repeated the request. “Mr. President, only your personal involvement will ensure the immediate delivery of federal assets needed to save lives that are in jeopardy hour by hour,” she wrote.
In a tense meeting with Mr. Bush at the New Orleans airport the same day, Gov. Blanco resisted the idea of federalizing the National Guard. When the president emerged from the meeting, Mr. Bush told New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin that the governor “needed 24 hours to decide,” Mr. Nagin said at a later news conference. Ms. Bottcher agreed that Mr. Bush and Ms. Blanco discussed the federalization of the National Guard.
Later on Friday, the White House formalized the offer in a memo to the governor’s office, suggesting the possibility of a military takeover of the security effort.
The tense and ultimately fruitless negotiations last week apparently contributed to chilly relations between the White House and the governor’s office. When Mr. Bush returned to Louisiana for a second visit on Monday, Gov. Blanco’s staff learned of the visit from a newspaper reporter; the White House said it had trouble reaching the governor on Sunday to let her know.
When the two leaders toured an evacuee center in Baton Rouge, they worked different parts of the room. Some Republicans say privately that continuing cool relations between Mr. Bush and Gov. Blanco have contributed to discussions of setting up a public corporation to administer long-term relief and reconstruction funds for the region.
–Doug Blackmon contributed to this article.
Write to John D. McKinnon at firstname.lastname@example.org