President Bush to send National Guard to Florida to Combat Alligator Menace
Following his proposal to enhance security on the border with Mexico by adding up to 6,000 National Guard troops, President Bush announced a plan today to send up to 1,500 Guard members to Florida in response to the recent string of alligator-related deaths in the state. "This is a national of laws, and we must enforce our laws," the President said in a press conference this morning. "Even alligators, who are often undocumented, must be held to the expectations placed upon all who reside in the United States. Those expectations include that they not eat people." The president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, recently added "alligator uprising" to his State of Emergency declaration issued last week in response to wildfires raging throughout the state.
The most recent attack was just last Sunday, when a visiting college student was killed by a gator while snorkeling in Marion County. Another woman was found dead Sunday in Pinellas County of bite marks consistent with an alligator attack. Last week, yet another woman was killed while jogging in Sunrise, FL by a ten-foot alligator who was later caught.
"We are ready to meet the alligator menace," Major General Douglas Burnett of the Florida Army National Guard resolved on Monday. "We have three UH-60 helicopters on call in the event of further alligator incursions."
Bush's plan has met with mixed responses so far, however. Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D) criticized the plan, citing concerns that it would overtax the already burdened Army National Guard and distract them from other important duties "preparing for natural disasters, fighting the war on terror, and keeping oil companies off the coast of Florida." Senator Mel Martinez (R) also criticized the proposal as "too little, too late." He characterized the gesture as "an unsatisfactory sop to his conservative base, a knee-jerk response that will do nothing to stem the rising tide of alligator offensives," although he was not willing to say that Florida was engaged in an interspecies civil war. Senator Martinez questioned the president's commitment to using executive authority in pursuit of law and order, given his failure to call out National Guard troops to prevent the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube last year, although he offered praise for their use in the 2004 election to prevent illegal voters from reaching the polls.
The proposal drew opposition from other circles as well. Democrats roundly criticized it as a political stunt to bolster support for the president's brother and to appear active in response to a crisis. On the other side of the aisle, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R, TN) also took the president to task for favoritism, noting that the administration has still done nothing about the fatal black bear attack in the Cherokee National Forest that left a 6-year-old girl dead last month. "Certainly the danger of bear attacks nationwide is of much more significance than that of alligators," she said, "yet the President has sat idly by while bears run rampant over our recreation areas, stealing picnic baskets, harassing forest rangers, and killing little girls."
So far, the public appears to be divided on the question of sending National Guard troops to do alligator duty. However, the Bush administration appears to believe that citizens can be swayed to approve of the measure and to the belief that robust use of military personnel can solve many policy problems. It remains to be seen whether this application will meet with more public regard than the president's previous calls to use National Guard forces to register Medicare beneficiaries for the new drug benefit plan, retrieve telephone records from Qwest, serve on the jury for the retrial of accused Jordanian perjurer Osama Awadallah, get Chris back on American Idol, and make the Da Vinci Code come out sooner.