Monday, September 12, 2005

Harold Ford Jr. Ends His Senate Run

Congressman Harold Ford Jr.'s office has just sent out a press release that may end his Senate run for Bill Frist's seat in 2006.

It begins innocently enough:
I am writing to urge the U.S. Department of Homeland Security immediately begin the process of conducting simulation and drills of federal, state and local officials to prepare for a potential catastrophic earthquake along the New Madrid seismic zone.
Fair enough and a good idea.

The timing of the announcement/request is suspect, coming as it does in the wake (literally!) of Katrina and amid the furious Democratic attacks on anything Bush-related in FEMA's actions. It smacks of opportunism of the most cynical sort. And the tying of a potential earthquake with the hurricane disaster is just Harold's way of playing the local angle to make himself look like he's "doing something about emergency preparedness." Typical political posturing.

The real problem for Ford, the shocker of a statement, is here:
Such an event is likely to cripple the response of local and state government and their first responders and emergency personnel. Therefore, a plan must be in place that would enable the federal government to respond immediately - without the immediate consent of state and local officials.

As you know, the current National Response Plan requires the Governor, in consultation with the local governments, to determine that a disaster is beyond the resources and capability of the state and local government to respond. This strategy - if used in the event of a major earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic area - has the potential to cost lives and should be seriously reconsidered.
Uhhh, Harold? Ever heard of a little thing called federalism? It's what keeps the Federal government from just pre-emptively moving into a State and taking over. It's a core principle of how the Constitution works. You remember that? You swore an oath on it.

Ford is proposing to throw out a central tenet of how we govern ourselves!

Federalism is what protects States. The States are left alone to govern themselves. Only in extra-ordinary circumstances -- like flood, fire, earthquake, civil unrest -- can the Federal government step in and only then either by request of the State or by the rarer Executive Order of the President (who will then answer to Congress). It's only when the State cannot handle the problem that they request the Federal government step in to help out. Even then, the Federal government can only do what the State requests it to do.

That's part of the problem in how the Katrina mess got so bad. New Orleans and Louisiana had the responsibility of dealing with the hurrican's damage first. Then, they had a procedure to follow to request FEMA and National Guard help. Only then could the Federal government provide the massive aid and response it can. The Governor of Louisiana and to a lesser extent the Mayor of New Orleans failed to do what they were supposed to do. The result left the Federal response hanging in the meantime.

What Ford proposes is that, whenever it wants to, the Federal government can decide to step in and take over a State in any way it wants to. That's a federal power grab of unbelievable proportions. Oh sure, "it's only for emergency relief situations." Until someone calls a civil disturbance an "emergency" or some Federal official decides that an election crisis is an "emergency." Imagine if the civil unrest following the 2000 election was used as an excuse to trigger the Clinton administration sending in Federal troops. Don't think it could happen? Just watch.

Smarter minds than mine will be dissecting Ford's incredible stupidity in the days and weeks to come. He's really made a huge mistake here. It's understandable for him, as a black Democrat, to think this way and see it all as reasonable. But it's not. And he will shortly be shown why.

The mess he's just made will likely cripple his statewide efforts to create appeal for himself. He's just given all his Republican opponents a power weapon to use against him. He's toast.

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