My Latin American friends ask this question: Why didn't Pres. Bush send troops into New Orleans?
The answer is The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
Most of us come from countries where the military plays a very visible role.
In Mexico, Pres. Fox recently sent troops to Nuevo Laredo. Back in 1985, Pres. De La Madrid sent the military to Chihuahua to put down a public revolt over election fraud. Most Mexicans have vivid memories of 1968 when another president put the Mexican military in the streets.
Many of us come from countries where the military changes governments and assumes control. Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende in Chile. Chavez attempted a coup against Carlos Andres-Perez in Venezuela.
It is very different in the US.
The US president cannot send troops into the states. It is called The Posse Comitatus Act and it has been on the books since 1878.
In fact, The Washington Post reports that that the Bush administration sent Gov. Blanco a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/04/AR2005090401337_pf.html)
She refused. Most governors would have done the same thing.
Looking ahead, and specially in light of terrorism, it may be time to change this act. Maybe future presidents should should have the authority to overrule local authorities and get the federal agencies and military sooner.
However, I don't think that most governors or state legislatures will approve that. Frankly, most state governments want the glory when things go well and want to blame the "feds" when things go wrong.
As I said before, governors and mayors are usually very jealous of having the federal government "show them up".
Besides, let's not forget that governors are potential presidential candidates. They want to be in charge during a crisis. They want to be on TV managing a crisis.
In New York, Rudy Guliani and Gov. Pataki were brilliant in their handling of the 9-11. Our own Gov. Perry has been outstanding in using the Texas Guard to provide security and rescue operations.
Unfortunately, we can not say good things about Mayor Nagin of New Orleans or Gov. Blanco of Louisiana. They did not coordinate their efforts. They failed their citizens.
Please check this out from Bob Williams "Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin failed their constituents" in today's Wall Street Journal. Williams is the president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a free market public policy research organization in Olympia, Wash. (http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007219)
P.S. The following information is from Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act):
"The Posse Comitatus Act is a federal law of the United States (18 U.S.C. 1385) passed in 1878, after the end of Reconstruction, and was intended to prohibit Federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states.
It generally prohibits Federal military personnel and units of the United States National Guard under Federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress.
The original act only referred to the Army, but the Air Force was added in 1956 and the Navy and Marine Corps have been included by a regulation of the Department of Defense.
This law is mentioned whenever it appears that the Department of Defense is interfering in domestic disturbances.
There are a number of exceptions to the act.
National Guard units while under the authority of the governor of a state;
Troops when used pursuant to the Federal authority to quell domestic violence as was the case during the 1992 Los Angeles riots;
The President of the United States can waive this law in an emergency;
In December 1981 additional laws were enacted (codified 10 USC 371-78) clarifying permissible military assistance to civilian law enforcement agencies including the Coast Guard especially in combating drug smuggling into the United States.
Posse Comitatus clarifications emphasize supportive and technical assistance (e.g., use of facilities, vessels, aircraft, intelligence, tech aid, surveillance) while generally prohibiting direct participation of DoD personnel in law enforcement (e.g., search, seizure, and arrests).
For example, Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETS) serve aboard Navy vessels and perform the actual boardings of interdicted suspect drug smuggling vessels and, if needed, arrest their crews.
Under 18 USC 831, the Attorney General may request that the Secretary of Defense provide emergency assistance if civilian law enforcement is inadequate to address certain types of threat involving the release of nuclear materials, such as potential use of a Nuclear or Radiological weapon.
Such assistance may be by any personel under the authority of the Department of Defense, provided such assistance does not adversely affect US military preparedness.