Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.
The administration had sought control over National Guard units, normally under control of the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request, noting that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. State authorities suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who is an adviser and does not have the authority to speak publicly.
Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.
Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."
In a Washington briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said one reason federal assets were not used more quickly was "because our constitutional system really places the primary authority in each state with the governor."
Then, of course, there is this and this
Up till now I have refrained from posting about Hurricane Katrina, but the tactics we are seeing from the government has repulsed me beyond measure. As Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish, said to Tim Russert "Shut up and send help"