Politics & Policy

National-Security Risks

The danger of selfish pols.

Neither Ground Zero’s smoky ruins nor the gaping hole in the Pentagon has bolstered the gravitas of America’s political class. Despite the War on Terror’s vicious enemies and grave risks of further attacks at home and abroad, too many public officials lately have grown pettier and more myopic rather than nobler and more visionary.

On Halloween, for instance, a House-Senate conference committee rejected a worthwhile amendment by Rep. Chet Edwards (Dem., Tex.) to reallocate $131 million within the Energy Department’s budget to secure and neutralize Russian atomic materials. The former USSR still possesses nuclear munitions, enriched uranium, and weapons-grade plutonium. Some of these radioactive substances sit in wooden warehouses protected by padlocks, breached fences, and guards who have gone unpaid for months. Scarier still, Osama bin Laden told reporters in 1998 that Muslims have a “religious duty” to acquire nuclear weapons.

The House, however, voted 399 to 29 on November 1 to approve $1.7 billion for Army Corps of Engineers water projects, among other appropriations. With any luck, Americans caught downwind from a terrorist atomic blast someday may wash away radioactive fallout in a federally built canal. Edwards is still pushing his measure while Washington bickers about presumably more urgent matters.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf stands with America in the War on Terror. This has enraged throngs of his Islamic fundamentalist countrymen. Musharraf now wants the U.S. to reduce its tariffs on textiles from Pakistan, America’s 15th-largest fiber supplier. As the Bush administration tries to help America’s ally, key lawmakers offer Musharraf this blunt reply: Drop dead, Pervez.

Senators Jesse Helms (Rep., N.C.) and Ernest Hollings (Dem, S.C.) told national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice in a letter last month that American textile company employees “must not be made pawns in efforts to build an international coalition.” Never mind that Pakistan’s U.S. textile sales, worth just $2 billion annually, plunged 40 percent in the first three weeks of October, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Some 10,000 Pakistani textile workers have been sacked since September 11. What if frenzied mobs of these disaffected laborers surround Musharraf’s office demanding to know what he has done for them lately? It is in America’s national interest for him to say: “Because I support the U.S., your textile jobs are perfectly safe.” While Musharraf cannot give his people such reassurances, at least the Carolinas’ trade-protected cotton gins whir in peace. What a wonderful incentive scheme for other Islamic leaders who may wish to defy their populations and help Washington fight terrorism.

As Heritage Foundation analyst Ronald Utt has found, politicians also are devouring the post-9/11 recovery budget as if they were celebrating Thanksgiving. “It’s an open grab bag, so let’s grab,” Rep. Jim Moran (Dem., Va.) said of the $40 billion in federal rescue funds. Washington, D.C. GOP councilwoman Carolyn Schwartz scolded D.C. mayor Anthony Williams for seeking only $150 million in federal recovery aid. “We should be asking for billions with a ‘B.’ I would run and grab as much as you can legitimately get,” Schwartz said. Williams then requested $900 million. George Pataki, New York’s doltish Republican governor, wants $54 billion in federal terrorist relief money. Beyond justifiable resources for damage repair, Pataki seeks such inappropriate items as statewide economic stimulus spending and a new high-speed train linking New York City with upstate Schenectady.

The situation is equally grim in Massachusetts. As Boston’s free-market Pioneer Institute notes, GOP acting governor Jane Swift’s administration has ordered local school systems to eliminate 300 nurses to help plug a $1.35 billion deficit in a state budget that has been overdue since July 1. This measure is ill conceived while health professionals guard against anthrax, smallpox, and other bioterrorist threats. The state legislature, however, managed this month to approve $5 million for private greyhound and thoroughbred racetracks. This legislation funds general operations and an increase in the purses these tracks pay winning gamblers. Perhaps these high-speed hounds will administer vaccines to children in the winner’s circle.

Compare the stupidity and self-absorption of these public officials with the selflessness of New York’s 343 Bravest who perished under the Twin Towers while saving some 25,000 lives. With few exceptions (President Bush and Mayor Giuliani among them), America’s increasingly infantile politicians do not deserve even to dust the church pews after any fallen fireman’s funeral.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

Most Popular

Education

Husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein Admits to Helping Well-Connected Applicants Gain Admission to University of California: ‘No One Ever Told Me It Was Wrong’

The husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) admitted on Thursday to sending an inappropriate letter identified in a state audit that appeared to help an applicant to the University of California, Berkeley, get accepted to the school. The California State Auditor issued a scathing report on Tuesday ... Read More
Education

Husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein Admits to Helping Well-Connected Applicants Gain Admission to University of California: ‘No One Ever Told Me It Was Wrong’

The husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) admitted on Thursday to sending an inappropriate letter identified in a state audit that appeared to help an applicant to the University of California, Berkeley, get accepted to the school. The California State Auditor issued a scathing report on Tuesday ... Read More

The Arson Party

About that peaceful transfer of power . . . I do not have access to my friend Mario Loyola’s Donald J. Trump super-secret decoder ring, but I am inclined to accept Loyola’s explanation that what President Trump was trying to say, but couldn’t quite manage to say, was the usual witless Trump trolling -- ... Read More

The Arson Party

About that peaceful transfer of power . . . I do not have access to my friend Mario Loyola’s Donald J. Trump super-secret decoder ring, but I am inclined to accept Loyola’s explanation that what President Trump was trying to say, but couldn’t quite manage to say, was the usual witless Trump trolling -- ... Read More
Law & the Courts

No, the Democrats Won’t Pack the Court

For many progressive opinion-makers, the only way to save the Supreme Court is to destroy it.   They believe the best response to the Republican-held Senate confirming a Trump nominee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court is to pack the Court if Democrats win in November. Holding out the ... Read More
Law & the Courts

No, the Democrats Won’t Pack the Court

For many progressive opinion-makers, the only way to save the Supreme Court is to destroy it.   They believe the best response to the Republican-held Senate confirming a Trump nominee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court is to pack the Court if Democrats win in November. Holding out the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Do You Want 51 or 52 States Next Year?

“The prospects of statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have never been greater, but many significant obstacles loom,” The Hill declares. The Constitution declares, “new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Do You Want 51 or 52 States Next Year?

“The prospects of statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have never been greater, but many significant obstacles loom,” The Hill declares. The Constitution declares, “new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction ... Read More