Mayor Nagin has pulled in his horns for the time being and postponed his planned re-opening of parts of the city of New Orleans until it is clear if Rita is going to swamp the place again. smart move.
Nevertheless, there remains the interesting issue of whether or not he, or Vice Admiral Allen USCG is in charge in the Crescent City. The mayor wants people back in his city. He correctly sees that as long as the city is empty it can be treated as a "project" in social experimentation by the same sort of people who gave us the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. "CPA2" is a term now whispered about in the Gulf region. The Finance Minister of Iraq complains about all the money that is missing from their treasury. What an opportunity this new campaign for freedom can become for "social uplift" and "constructive thinking." You can do a lot of constructive thinking when 200 billion dollars are involved. There are fears of a "disnification" of the city, a loss of its character as poor people are replaced with golf courses and five star hotels. New Orleans is a special place. Culturally it is not really an American city. It is Latin and African and very free of the Calvinism which so marks the Republic. We need New Orleans for many reasons, among them a reminder that life is more than rules and work.
Rove’s name is being whispered in Washington as the man likely to rule as Czar of "Reconstruction" (an unfortunate choice of word in the South). The Democrats have spotted the conjunction of the Rove/Cheney/Chertoff axis of operation with the media "woof woofing" about "the corruption of state and local government," and the need for a "planned Reconstruction," (ah, there it is again). In reaction, the Democrats are beginning to mount a counter-offensive which will inevitably rest on the federal nature of the American republic.
Last time I checked Louisiana and Mississippi, having ratified the 13Th, 14Th and 15Th Amendments to the Constitution were re-admitted to the Union (federal occupation troops being withdrawn at the same time). Since then they have functioned as full and sovereign member states of the Union. They participate fully with the federal government and the citizenry in the scheme of shared sovereignty so brilliantly worked out at Philadelphia long ago.
It is difficult to carry off any scheme for centralized planning of reconstruction within member states of the Union without state cooperation. I hope that will not be attempted. The states have an automatic recourse to the Supreme Court on issues of federal expansiveness at their expense. The Supreme Court which Bush is busily constructing will be even more responsive to state arguments than the Rehnquist Court.
If forced to bet on the answer to my question "Who is in Charge?" I would bet that Barbour, Blanco and Nagin will be in charge.