There’s one thing that should really concern you about Bush’s speech.  No, it’s not that the president of the United States cannot be trusted to button his own shirt.  No, it’s not even the faint background music of Dixie when Bush declared that the Gulf Coast would “rise again.”

While the news concentrates on the enormous cost of Bush’s proposals, and the wingnuts vibrate into another dimension demanding sacrifices they would never had thought to ask in funding Iraq, both have missed the important point.

Near the end of the speech is the nugget of truth among the warmed over LBJ impersonation.  
Believe it or not, the most frightening thing in Bush’s speech was not the way he could stand in the middle of an evacuated city and smirk.  It was hidden way down there, in the middle of one of the whining segments of the speech.  Remember the part that opened with:

The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people. It was not a normal hurricane…

The purpose of that part is clear enough.  This was not his fault!  No one could have foreseen a storm that had both wind and rain.  A couple of seconds later comes the kicker:

Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces – the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment’s notice.

There.  Catch that last sentence?  It summarizes everything Bush really has to say about the situation.

    1. It repeats the “I was hampered by legalities” excuse, implying that he didn’t act because (insert your favorite latin legal phrase) restrained him.

    2. It spreads the blame to state and local governments that knew they were out of their depth and had already begged for federal assistance.

    3. The power grab.  This is the real heart of the thing — “requires greater federal authority.”  Bush will now use the Katrina disaster as a means to gather still more power to his administration.

To see how this will work, you have only to look at the response to 9/11.  Everyone directly involved agreed that the government had not been hampered by law or institutional barriers, but had only failed through plain old government inertia and because the Bush administration was not paying enough attention to the problem.  Even so, the immediate response of the Bush administration was to use 9/11 as an opportunity to grab more power to themselves, and to erode civil liberties.

Now that pattern is repeating itself.  The situation in New Orleans had nothing to do with legal restrictions which kept the federal government out.  However, Bush will now use Katrina as an excuse to gather more powers to himself.

  • Expect new legislation that makes it the decision of the president, not the governor, when to send in the troops.  

  • Expect new legislation that makes it easier for the president to declare martial law.  

  • Expect new legislation that makes it easier for the president to take control of national guard troops, including units within their home state.

  • Expect this new legislation to be used much more broadly than in the case of nation disasters.

In effect, expect Bush to use this excuse to overturn Posse Comitatus as it now stands, and to rework the National Guard as an extension of the federal executive.  For everyone on the right who ever used the “well, the federal government doesn’t have a national police force” meme — Bush is about to solve that problem for you.

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