Yesterday I wrote about how the Bush administration continues to ignore one of the most glaring chinks in America's national security armor -- our nation's ports -- while patting itself on the back for "securing America." Not to be outdone, Rep. Joe Barton, the Republican chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is actually blocking legislation that would safeguard what the New York Times calls "probably the nation's greatest vulnerability" -- our largely unprotected chemical plants.
According to Paul Falkenrath, formerly one of President Bush's top homeland security advisors, these plants currently stand "alone as uniquely deadly, pervasive and susceptible to terrorist attack." Such an attack could lead to a death toll far greater than that of 9/11.
But even though two of America's most dangerous chemical plants are located near Barton's district -- and put over a million people at risk -- the congressman doesn't seem the least bit concerned. Indeed, he is one of the few hearty (or is it "foolhearty"?) souls in Washington willing to take a stand AGAINST efforts to shore up security at these plants.
Faced with the image of tens of thousands dying on our streets, poisoned by noxious chemicals, Barton has adopted the ol' "Hey, if someone wants to get you bad enough, there's really nothing you can do about it" line of reasoning:
If there are enough terrorists who are dedicated enough and equipped well enough, they're going to overwhelm everything that you put up short of some sort of Fort Knox...
Now plenty of congressmen side with industry and lobbyists over the national interest when it comes to little things like clean water and fresh air -- but it takes a very special sort to scoff at national security.
So hats off -- and HazMat suits on -- to Rep. Barton, who clearly takes very seriously his commitment to the energy and chemical interests who have donated more than $1.8 million to his campaigns. They're certainly getting their money's worth.
If they had any sense, Democrats would wind down the victory lap they've been taking over thwarting a few items on the president's domestic policy wish list and take on the president and the Republicans over the war and national security. The GOP is not tackling the nation's greatest vulnerability. And the Democrats are not tackling what is undoubtedly the GOP's greatest vulnerability: their phony claim that they are the party that will keep us safe.