A unified Congress on Wednesday swiftly denounced the high-rise Pearl Harbor at the World Trade Center and the carnage at the Pentagon. Republicans and Democrats should show equal discipline in rebuilding America’s might. The blueprint they should follow parallels President Bush’s legislative agenda. He should lead them in implementing these steps immediately.
First, America’s image as an invincible power has been reduced to rubble — at least for now. An overwhelming military response against the architects of the September 11 Massacre might restore some of America’s lost strategic luster. However, a sustained, multibillion dollar commitment will reverse the Clinton administration’s neglect of U.S. military assets.
I toured the U.S.S. Nassau as it visited New York harbor on July 3, 2000. A young Marine on board showed me around the last helicopter that evacuated the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in April 1975. The chopper was not a museum artifact, but equipment in use then — and perhaps now.
The Marine told me he had flown in that world-famous helicopter on a mission to help the Drug Enforcement Agency chop down marijuana plants overseas. “We do whatever the DEA tells us,” he explained.
Washington should use this new war to modernize America’s military hardware and narrow the purposes for which it is deployed. So long as foreign thugs plot to bury Americans beneath chunks of concrete, the Pentagon has missions more vital than battling pot plants.
As horrifying as Tuesday’s barbarism was, it might have been worse. Terrorists or a nation that nurtures them could have used a missile to drop an atomic warhead that would have made the recent explosions at the Twin Towers resemble trashcan fires. The fanaticism, organization and financial commitment that turned airliners into flying bombs make a missile attack easier to contemplate. President Bush’s proposal for a ballistic-missile defense system should be approved and accelerated. If the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty impedes deployment, President Bush should persuade Russia’s already-accommodating president, Vladimir Putin, that such a system is pivotal to U.S. security and of no worry to nations — presumably including his — that wish America peace.
Second, President Bush’s opponents have caricatured his energy plan as a license to pave Alaska and turn its polar bears into throw rugs. Alaska and other states offer this country the chance to end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Given the animus that so many over there have Toward “the Great Satan,” it now is clearly in the national interest to be able to turn our backs on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and its neighbors. If those countries lacked petroleum beneath their sands, they would be as crucial to us as Guyana, Laos and Djibouti. Relying on domestic — and perhaps Mexican – petroleum would spare the U.S. from leaving our fuel lines exposed like jugulars across a region teaming with people who hate us.
Finally, with the Dow sagging well below 10,000 points, unemployment rising to 4.9 percent and growth estimates marching south, consumers and CEOs alike already had the jitters before terror struck. Now, confused and demoralized economic actors could send commerce into a tailspin. Immediately increasing financial incentives could prevent that. Capital-gains taxes permanently should be halved or eliminated at once. The slow motion, 10-year tax cut should be hastened to return more money to taxpayers to invest or spend as they wish. If this helps more rich people create jobs or purchase things other people produce, so be it.
How can Congress fund all this? Fiscally, Republicans and Democrats alike are as self-restrained as a room full of undiapered infants. Through 2011, farm programs are scheduled to swell by $74 billion above the current spending baseline. Education spending is set to balloon by 11 percent next year alone. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, last year’s budget groaned beneath 6,333 pork barrel projects — 46 percent more than in fiscal year 2000 — costing $18.5 billion. Congress’s envisioned $300 billion prescription drug entitlement — even for wealthy seniors — would sicken Medicare even further.
As commander in chief, President Bush must insist that Congress stop monkeying around and set priorities. The federal budget is not Santa’s shopping list. Scarce resources must be devoted to national security, energy independence and economic growth. The United States needs adult leadership, not a $2 trillion student council. Re-asserting America’s status as Earth’s sole, unsinkable superpower is the best way to avenge the thousands of fellow citizens who our enemies just murdered.