Thursday, February 23, 2006

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Ecclesiastes 10:1 (New Living Translation)

“Dead flies will cause even a bottle of perfume to stink! Yes, an ounce of foolishness can outweigh a pound of wisdom and honor.”

It looks to me like the wheels are falling off America’s executive wagon. Secret committees are making executive decisions affecting America’s security. Even the President, it seems, has to get his news about what’s going on from the media. Ah, but the President is telling us not to worry about it all:

“The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and improved by my government, the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure,” Bush said, adding that port security will still be run by U.S. Customs and the Coast Guard. “The UAE has been a valuable partner in fighting the War on Terror. A lot of goods are shipped from ports to the United States managed by this company.”

Now I’ve been a staunch supporter of the President ever since September 11, 2001. I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion that our national task is to win this war on terror. I’m on his side, or at least I want to be. But, he’s only half-right on this issue and that’s every bit as bad as being all wrong. I find little comfort in his words. To be honest, I don’t think he could have picked a worse time to have a second term malaise. When we need him the most he seems to have fallen asleep at the switch.

The President’s wrong about what a troubles a lot of us. Our concern has more to do with the competence of those we’ve entrusted to protect us than it does with the United Arab Emirates. The President of the United States didn’t know about this deal. This is the same President who has told us for over four years now that his paramount concern is national security. I’m having great difficulty reconciling these ideas. They seem contradictory to me. I’m troubled because I’m seeing what I believe to be our own incompetence creeping slowly up on us. I’m less concerned with the competence of our enemies to destroy us than I am with the competence of our national bureaucracy to protect us.

How could the President of the United States and his administration be so short sighted? Surely they must realize that we already have gaping holes in our security apparatus. Are they so far out of tune with the American people that they aren’t aware there has been more than just a little bit of national anxiety about this? Apparently not. We’re concerned and all we’re told is to not worry. “Trust us,” they say. “There haven’t been any attacks in over four years.” All this administration spin isn’t helping me. It’s like hearing a guy falling from a skyscraper proclaim half way through his descent, “So far, so good.”

No, I’m not convinced we’re as secure as we’ve been led to believe. I read a piece by Peggy Noonan this morning that just about sums it up for me. In it she described the disgrace of our airport security system. As she closed she asked the cogent questions:

“It is almost five years since 9/11, and since the new security regime began. Why hasn't it gotten better? Why has it gotten worse? It's a disgrace, this airport security system, and it's an embarrassment. I'm sure my Englishman didn't come away with a greater respect or regard for America.”

“So we're all talking about port security this week, and the debate over the Bush administration decision to allow an United Arab Emirates company to manage six ports in the United States. That debate is turning bitter, and I wonder if the backlash against President Bush isn't partly due to the fact that everyone in America has witnessed or has been a victim of the incompetence of the airport security system. Why would people assume the government knows what it's doing when it makes decisions about the ports? It doesn't know what it's doing at the airports.”

Why indeed? Why should I trust the insulated government bureaucracies? I suppose I should, but in all honesty I don’t.

The President isn’t without allies in this mess. Larry Kudlow, for example, is maintaining that anyone who’s against the deal to sell six American seaports is suffering from Islamaphobia. This is how he put it this morning:

“This whole brouhaha surrounding the Bush administration’s green-light to a United Arab Emirates company slated to manage six major U.S. ports has nothing to do with protecting homeland security. Allow me to give it its proper name: Islamophobia.”

Kudlow is dead wrong. For me, and many other Americans, this is all about making good sense decisions, decisions based on more than narrow commercial interests. It’s going to take more than being told that this deal is too good to pass up to convince me.
And, I take serious umbrage at the notion my concerns amount to Islamaphobia. The administration’s allies should be able to do better than that.

That, and the administration line that this “has all been reviewed,” doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in me. As much as I’d like not to, I’m seeing that all this name calling and spin might be nothing more than whistling past the graveyard.

I suppose I really shouldn’t worry. I live here in the Kansas Flint Hills and things here are pretty isolated from the machinations of the larger world. Al Qaeda doesn’t have any grand designs on Emporia, Kansas. We don’t have any seaports out here to protect, nor is our airport, which isn’t much more than a large patch of grass with wind socks at each end, a prime terrorist target. Why, the tallest building around here is only six or seven stories high.

As I said a minute ago, we’re pretty isolated out here in the heartland. Then why am I concerned? The wolf isn’t huffing and puffing at my door. Why not just stay isolated from it all? I think it’s because I now sense that as a nation we may be looking down the barrel of a loaded gun, deluding ourselves into thinking that it isn’t loaded or that the safety’s engaged. Well, I’m here to remind the administration that the gun is loaded, there’s a round in the chamber, and the safety’s disengaged.

Four years ago we got a tragic awakening. We all learned that our enemies were deadly serious. Our eyes were opened and we responded in deadly earnestness to the blow that had been inflicted on us. Today, our enemies are every bit as serious. But, judging by current events going on behind closed doors in Washington, D.C., we’ve lost our sense of gravity and resolve. Business as usual has replaced the resolve that came to us on that fateful day. That’s dangerous! That’s foolhardy!

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James Fletcher Baxter said...

We could reasonably ask the President if they are also involved in the security of our border with Mexico - and the world.

And, the airports...?


moderate said...

I think we agree on this fact, it seems as though a huge majority of Americans think that the port deal is horrible...I certainly hope that our legislators understand the unanimity of the people on this