Readers of this column know I’m not much for federal intervention in state affairs. Logic tells us the doctrine of states’ rights is the way to go, as local elected officials are the ones most in touch with what their citizens need.
But what happens when the states make a muck of it? What happens when community leaders worry more about their next election and appeasing dissidents and less about public safety?
The federal government has now inserted itself — albeit in a backdoor way — to try to restore some sense of security to besieged communities. Too bad it’s not in locations where riots have become a nightly event.
For three months, the city of Portland, Ore., has been plagued by the violence of a band of roaming criminals who are fueled by unknown benefactors. Arson fires, looting and frightening harassment of innocent citizens and business owners are now commonplace.
In cities as disparate as Denver, Seattle, Baltimore, San Antonio and Lafayette, La., criminal mobs have staged destructive rampages. It is certainly acceptable if citizens want to peacefully protest, but when those demonstrations morph into senseless storms of destruction, then authorities must stop the violence immediately.
The most recent rioting took place in Kenosha, Wis., following yet another police shooting of a black man. Despite two nights of terrifying violence, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers refused the Republican president’s offer of federal troops. After the rioting escalated and two people were killed, Evers agreed that his state needed federal assistance.
Can we please stop playing politics here?
Is this what America’s future looks like? How much more can average citizens and business owners be asked to endure?
In the meantime, the feds have quietly pushed ahead with Operation Legend, an anti-crime program that unleashed 1,000 federal agents to help round up violent career criminals. In just six weeks, the operation — named for 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot as he slept in a Kansas City, Mo., apartment — has resulted in nearly 1,500 arrests in the nine cities in which it has been deployed.
So far, the operation has taken nearly 400 firearms off the streets, and at least 90 suspected killers have been arrested. Others were charged with crimes that included drug trafficking, bank fraud, bank robbery, extortion, robbery, arson, carjacking and illegal possession of a firearm, oftentimes by ex-cons.
The operation began in little LeGend’s hometown of Kansas City and expanded to Albuquerque, N.M., Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Memphis, Tenn., Milwaukee and St. Louis. Indianapolis was added most recently.
To be clear, Operation Legend is not focused on quelling the riots. It is focused on simply assisting local officers in what must seem like an overwhelming daily grind of good versus evil. At least it’s a start.
But not every city has welcomed Operation Legend’s federal assistance. Chicago Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared she wouldn’t let federal troops in to “terrorize” the city. She later changed her mind after Chicago murders increased nearly 200 percent. Tim Keller, the Democratic mayor of Albuquerque, a city that the FBI reports has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate about 194 percent higher than the national average, derisively called the federal agents “Trump’s secret police.”
Nonetheless, the feds activated the program to New Mexico’s largest city, and the roundup of criminals began.
Again, can we stop playing politics with public safety?
I am a believer in states’ rights. But if riotous lawlessness continues, it is entirely appropriate for the president, whoever it might be, to invoke the Insurrection Act and send in federal troops. At least 10 past presidents have deployed federal troops to states.
In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower sent thousands of troops into Little Rock, Ark., to ensure school desegregation went forward as ordered by a federal court. In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson dispatched federal troops several times to tamp down riots in five cities. There is plenty of precedent for the commander in chief to intercede — whether or not the governor of a state wants it.
Deployment of federal troops should be automatic during these troubled times. The besieged population has had enough. Forget the politics. Citizens want peace.