Favorite

Controlling authority 

It’s hard to see a bright side in national emergencies. But one may be emerging from the awful string of events that includes the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, and even, perhaps, the threatened pandemic of avian flu.

Where’s the good news here?

It may be that, at last, Americans are recognizing — and coming together to oppose — the power grab the Bush administration is making under cover of these tragic events.

Finally, red and blue are coming together to defend the red, white and blue.

The president went too far, even for some of his most ardent supporters, when he began pushing to have active-duty military units play a lead in disaster response.

We can congratulate our own governor, Mike Huckabee, for standing with governors from both parties in opposition to the president’s plan.

Huckabee may merely be defending political turf, or trying to claim new ground as he eyes the presidency, but the sterling fact remains that, as chairman of the National Governors Association, on this issue, Huckabee stands in defense of civil liberties, against his party’s leader.

“It’s a bad idea for the military to make that decision and usurp the authority that, under the Constitution, stays with the governor and local authorities,” Huckabee said last month.

He told reporters, “I haven’t heard any governors say, ‘That’s a great idea. I’ll give up my power to an unelected general to oversee my state.’

“That would be a significant, almost revolutionary, change in government policy and practice ...

“You’re going to have a push-back from governors, county executives, mayors, fire chiefs, police chiefs, all up and down the emergency-management structure.”

Since passage of the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878, America’s military has largely been prohibited from acting as a domestic police force. The PCA embodies the traditional American principle of keeping civilian and military authority separate.

For the past few decades, however, that separation has faced serious erosion.

In 1989, Congress designated the Department of Defense as the “single lead agency” in drug interdiction efforts.

After the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton proposed an exception to the PCA to allow the military to aid civilian authorities in investigations involving “weapons of mass destruction.”

Congress has considered legislation to directly involve federal troops in enforcing customs and immigration laws at the border.

The USA PATRIOT Act, parts of which undercut civil rights protections that Americans have held sacred for centuries, was rushed into law almost before the dust from the attacks on the World Trade Center had settled.

Similarly, flood waters were still flowing into New Orleans when members of the Bush administration suggested that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco surrender her authority to federal officials.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “When you have a severe catastrophic event like a Hurricane Katrina, you need to have the authority, a trigger, to allow for the military to assume full responsibility for the immediate response in order to stabilize the situation and then step back and let others assume control.”

This time, Americans seem ready to reject the fear-mongering. Finally, liberals and conservatives alike are crying foul.

As Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, said, “Whether a governor is a Republican or Democrat, I would expect the response would be, ‘Hell, no.’ ”

That “hell, no” shouldn’t just come from governors. We, the people, can shout it too.


Mara Leveritt is contributing editor to the Times and an author. Max Brantley is on vacation.



Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Mara Leveritt

  • Illustrating the governor's message

    Our prisons burst with disparities. Eliminating them will take courage. Let's see if the Arkansas Parole Board can heed the governor's message with one matter currently before it.
    • Dec 3, 2015
  • Mara Leveritt offers governor a symbol for sentencing reform

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state needs to get serious about sentencing reform if it is to cope with its exploding prison population.
    • Dec 1, 2015
  • Parole board hears arguments on parole for Tim Howard

    The hard-fought battle over the fate of former death-row inmate Tim Howard intensified on Thursday when John Felts, chairman of the Arkansas Parole Board, held a hearing at Cummins prison to consider Howard’s eligibility for parole.
    • Oct 9, 2015
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Aid politics

    The still-unfolding catastrophe in Houston is, first, a human tragedy. But when politicians try to tell you that a time of enormous human tragedy is not a time to talk about politics, it likely means the politics are embarrassing to them.
    • Aug 31, 2017
  • Save the statues!

    The Democratic Party of Arkansas has called for relocation of Confederate monuments from public places, such as courthouse squares and the Capitol lawn, to history museums or private grounds.
    • Aug 24, 2017
  • Charter secret

    These are hard times for those who believe in traditional public schools, run by democratically elected representatives, open to all on equal terms.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Nobody is blaming the victim. There also isn't some sinister patriarchy going on, it is…

    • on September 25, 2017
  • Re: Sex on campus

    • I'm in my 50's. I don't think I know a single woman who HASN'T been…

    • on September 25, 2017
  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Here we see a "social scientist" who begins with an ad hominem argument, and then…

    • on September 24, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation