Mixed Signals in GOP Terrorland

GOP critics of Obama's homeland security have the shortest memory in American history -- or is it the greatest gall and smallest amount of moral intelligence?
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lately, like so many of President Obama supporters I've felt genuinely aggrieved by the administration's failure to force the banks to give up their risky stock dealings, their brazen bonuses, and stick to guarding those savings accounts and making loans to small business that God and good government intended. Where are the regulations that will prevent another bailout for the recklessly greedy? If the president means to go the manly route of "the buck stops here" he should not stop with the underwear bomber but keep going until his buck stops at the unregulated bucks that the banks are accumulating in the midst of this recession. As one who was an ardent supporter of this president during his campaign, I feel a deep disappointment, not yet heartbreak but a chill in the air, one that has nothing to do with this cold winter. Whatever happened to the loan modification program that was designed to keep people from foreclosure? Did everything have to fall on the sword of health care? The fact that some clothing manufacturer used the president's picture to promote a sports coat in Times Square seems oddly appropriate. Would any cigarette manufacturer have dared to put up a photo of FDR to promote Chesterfields or whatever he smoked? The lack of respect is a self-inflicted wound, caused by the cozying up to big money interests, so why shouldn't the jacket manufacturer try to get his piece of the Obama pie? And the party crashers at the White House dinner desperate to revive their fortunes in a reality show by attaching themselves to Obama's coat-tails are a symptom of what happens when glamour seems to trump policy. But if there is one area in which I feel compelled to defend this president, it is against such Republican terror mongers as Long Island's Congressman Peter King, aka Snow White's Grumpy, Rudy "Kiss me Judi" Giuliani, and Beelzebub's own Dick Cheney -- all raging against the president in the matter of recent terrorist attempts. These three could easily be cast as the three witches in Macbeth, only Rudy would probably demand the larger part of Lady MacB -- better lines and prettier dresses. The prophecies that come from these three demand an airing, at least a crack in the window to let out the bad breath they bring to the issue of terrorism.

These professional scolds, all Sunday morning talk show patriots, condemn Obama's failure to prevent that underwear bomber from boarding that plane because his administration lacked a coordinated program of identifying terrorists within our agencies. They all fail to mention that in the years preceding and following 9/11 the Bush administration had no such program in place -- and they had seven years to do so. This does not excuse this administration but it does add some perspective to the discussion. Moreover, the very fact of 9/11 was one of history's greatest Republican screw-ups -- with "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" Condoleezza Rice failing to attend to the warnings of Al Qaeda's intended attack on the US mainland, and the Bush failure to prevent 9/11 by stopping the terrorists in their flight school days before the great tragedy took place. With 3,000 dead from the World Trade Center, and thousands more as a result of the misconceived war in Iraq, and the GOP's failure to locate and destroy Osama bin Laden, these critics of President Obama have the shortest memory in American history -- or is it the greatest gall and smallest amount of moral intelligence? Forget Tiger Woods -- we have Dick Cheney, who screwed an entire country without Brit Hume advising him to turn to Jesus for salvation. These men may be making some political points among the true believers but for anyone with a memory that can reach back past yesterday, they are insulting more than the president with their shrill accusations, they insult reason and history. King's argument is that Obama is not serious about the "war" on terror; that the closing of Guantanamo and the decision to try the terrorists in NYC is evidence of the frivolity with which the president and the Democrats treat this issue; that this foolhardy adherence to the rule of law and our democratic values sends mixed messages to the enemy and makes us appear weak before the world. In the real world, closing Guantanamo is a bow to decency and a show of America's real strength, and trying these terrorists in a civilian court is about the rule of law, a rule we cannot sacrifice in the name of security. Now, I live in NYC. I can recall the acrid smell in the air on 9/11, and how my fireman nephew John McNamara ultimately died as a result of his ceaseless work at Ground Zero. I would much prefer that the terrorists were tried in Omaha or Peoria or in any sparsely populated city in the Red States than in my city -- with trials that will cost this economically challenged city millions in security. But New York is where the worst of their crimes took place and it seems appropriate to hold the trials here. The low politics that the GOP is playing with the issue of terrorism truly disgusts since every sentient adult knows that there is no iron clad system that can prevent attempts upon innocent lives by hate-crazed extremists and with all the mending and patching of the CIA and the FBI, perfect security is a goal, not a reality.

This trading on people's fears is particularly disgusting following the deaths of those men and women in the CIA who recently lost their lives from a suicide bomber's plot. The fact is that the lowering of the speed on highways to 55 miles per hour would save more lives in this country than any move the government can make by tightening security, since we lose more Americans to auto deaths than we do to terrorism. And it would save on energy, loosening the grip that the Mideast oil-ogarchies with their terror schools have on us. Now why isn't Representative King demanding greater enforcement of driving regulations and lowering speed limits if he is so concerned about American lives?

Everything that Peter , Rudy, and Dick say comes as a mixed message -- "We are the tough guys who are looking out for America while getting something for ourselves on the side" -- with Rudy making millions through his "security" business, Cheney having a never ending chance to exercise his bile via Fox News, and King playing high stakes terror poker with a straight face to insure his reelection. We have had Bush and his "Bring'em on" boast, and his "Mission Accomplished" banners and all of that beeswax has led us into eight hellish years and this great recession. King, Giuliani, and Cheney are the political gossip girls -- not caring whose reputation they destroy, or weighing the consequences of their words. What we need is more reality in the conversation about American security, not more rhetoric. Fear mongers such as these three are like rumor mongers. They deal in the illusion that they alone know the terrible truth about the world and its deepest secrets, while experience tells us one terrible truth: the world is made more dangerous by their snarling words which slander rather than enlighten and make this government's work of keeping the country safe as a democracy all the harder.