THE BLOG
03/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Republicans Slamming Law Enforcement: Can't Officials Get Some Respect?

Calling all city police, state troopers, and every other badge-toting member of the thin blue line in this country. Aren't you getting sick and tired of having Republican war hawks demean and insult your job skills as part of their campaign to make President Obama look weak on terrorism?

A typical example of this opportunistic pandering came in late December when Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) told POLITICO:

"In the past six weeks you've had the Fort Hood attack, the DC Five and now the attempted attack on the plane in the Detroit... and they all underscored the clear philosophical difference between the administration and us."

"I think Secretary Napolitano and the rest of the Obama administration view their role as law enforcement, first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack. And we believe in a forward looking approach to stopping these attacks before they happen."

Do all you law enforcement people get the message here? Hoekstra and his conservative cohorts obviously believe, and want all of America to agree, that what police departments do is some kind of plodding, second-rate system of protecting the public. Their perception of reality envisions police officers as doing little more than writing parking tickets and sweeping up broken glass after auto accidents.

Incredible though it may seem to Rep. Hoekstra, I can assure him that police officers are not simply "first responders." Numerous law enforcement agencies do, in fact, take frequent pre-emptive measures against domestic evil-doers.

Using informants and undercover agents to bust drug rings and other criminal conspiracies is a standard operating procedure from coast to coast. It's also very dangerous work and the personnel getting it done deserve to be honored instead of denigrated by politicians trying to score cheap political points.

The other bogus element of the Hoekstra-and-company world view is the notion that anything short of 100-percent terror prevention is unacceptable. In other words, it's absolutely normal and, in fact, essential, that all Americans expect the federal government to prevent a terrorist incident of any kind from occurring anywhere in the US.

This might be possible if every person on Earth was fitted with a tracking device at birth and monitored around the clock by a planet-scanning super computer, which would mean we¹d all be living in a version of The Matrix.

But we're not in a movie. The world is a vast place with millions of people moving in all directions, crossing hundreds of borders each day. Anyone who thinks it's possible to account for each individual traveler on every airliner, tour bus, passenger train, ferry boat, or remote mountain road is delusional.

The unpleasant reality of global conflict is that even when security measures are in place, people working against us have a huge number of targets to aim at and occasionally they may find a way to slip through all safeguards and hit one.

Does the December suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed eight Americans underscore the clear philosophical difference between the administration and Republicans that Rep. Hoekstra wants us to worry about? Were those CIA officers compromised by soft-on-terror attitudes drifting down from the commander-in-chief? Any such assertion would be despicable.

You can hear echoes of the Hoekstra "no attacks acceptable" mantra in the blustering declarations of other "get tough" advocates like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who earlier this month trumpeted his indignation with the fact that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had gotten aboard Northwest Flight 253.

"At the National Counterterrorism Center, something went wrong," Lieberman said on CNN's State of the Union. "So if human errors were made, I think some of the humans who made those errors have to be disciplined so that they never happen again."

What a concept for 21st century America -- a country where human errors NEVER happen again, and all would-be terrorists are stopped before they try to attack us, and every citizen is totally safe and secure at all times.

War hawks like Dick Cheney present this goal as being simple, logical, and completely reasonable. In fact, their vision of a zero-threat society is just a totalitarian version of "everything is beautiful," a slogan from the 1960s that conservatives have always mocked as naive, idealistic, hippie-dippie blather.

Cheney likes to portray his "work from the dark side" philosophy as a forceful, efficient method of defeating a sinister, invisible enemy. In his world we'd all turn over our Constitutional rights to covert spy agencies and turn our backs while they do whatever it takes to make sure the US is never hit again.

This approach has already been tried in other countries. Anyone remember the Dirty War, that wonderful era of total security in Argentina from 1976 to 1983? Thousands of people who were considered subversive or disloyal to the government simply disappeared.

I think about the Dirty War every time some Cheney sycophant defends the "dark side" strategy by claiming it only targets bad people and "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." Joe Stalin couldn't have said it better.

So, to all talk show airheads and other simpletons who think we can create a nationwide bubble of immunity from evil intentions, my advice is: Shut up and get real. Preventing acts of terrorism from happening is a gigantic task that's always going to be difficult and often frustrating in a free society. Efforts to eliminate glitches, poor communication, false alarms and other mistakes will always be an ongoing part of the fight.

The everyday reality for me in this battle is a lurking uneasiness whenever I see a van or other large delivery vehicle drive by that has no signs or other identification on it. Does Congress need to pass a law that requires all unmarked trucks to have clear plastic siding so we can all see what's inside and feel safer? But then we'd need an additional law that requires boxes and packaging material to be made of transparent material. Is this vigilance or paranoia?

I'm glad to report that no delivery trucks, unmarked or otherwise, have raised my personal vigilance meter high enough to trigger pre-emptive action since the war on terror began. But if I ever did think such action was needed, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone and call my local police. I trust their competence to handle the situation.

And my sincere thanks to law enforcement people, everywhere.