Commentary Magazine


Topic: Department of Homeland Security

Who Wins Boehner v. Cruz, Part II? Both.

In the fall of 2013, House Speaker John Boehner made it clear that he was not interested in setting off a confrontation that would lead to a government shutdown. But against his will and his better judgment, members of his caucus, egged on by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, dragged him into doing exactly that. The result was a political disaster that gave President Obama the one political triumph of an otherwise dreadful second term. The question today is whether the same cast of characters led by Cruz can force the speaker into another shutdown. Indications are that this time Boehner will resist the Tea Party caucus and a shutdown, at least in the short term, will be avoided. That will be a victory for Boehner and an indication that he will be more in control of the House in the next two years than he was in the current Congress. But even if he loses this battle, Cruz may also benefit from this scenario.

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In the fall of 2013, House Speaker John Boehner made it clear that he was not interested in setting off a confrontation that would lead to a government shutdown. But against his will and his better judgment, members of his caucus, egged on by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, dragged him into doing exactly that. The result was a political disaster that gave President Obama the one political triumph of an otherwise dreadful second term. The question today is whether the same cast of characters led by Cruz can force the speaker into another shutdown. Indications are that this time Boehner will resist the Tea Party caucus and a shutdown, at least in the short term, will be avoided. That will be a victory for Boehner and an indication that he will be more in control of the House in the next two years than he was in the current Congress. But even if he loses this battle, Cruz may also benefit from this scenario.

As Politico reported yesterday, Cruz and his Tea Party colleagues are running into stiff resistance even from fellow conservatives in both the House and the Senate who have no appetite for another drubbing at the hands of the president and his media cheerleaders even if all are sympathetic to the idea of some kind of congressional pushback in response to the president’s executive orders on illegal immigrants. As our Pete Wehner wrote earlier this week, polls still show that the GOP would be the loser in any such confrontation, just as it was in 2013 even if it could be argued that the president was just as much, if not more responsible for sending the government to the brink.

Cruz and his allies want an immediate response to President Obama’s lawless end-run around Congress’s refusal to do his bidding on amnesty for illegals in the form of a proposal that will defund the Department of Homeland Security’s carrying out of the president’s orders and set in motion a battle that would probably lead to a shutdown. But most Republicans prefer the compromise proposed by Boehner that would fund the government for the next year while allowing DHS to operate only for a few months as the GOP formulated a response to the orders.

The speaker will probably need some Democratic votes to pass his version of the continuing resolution to keep funding the government as well as the assurances of Senate Democrats and the president that they will not seek to obstruct the measure in the waning days of the lame duck Congress. That is an indignity that he was not either prepared or able to suffer in 2013 but he will do so now both because he wishes to avoid a shutdown and because he wishes to send a message to the House that it will be he who is running things in the next Congress as Republicans seek to show the country that they can govern responsibly once they have control of both the House and the Senate.

Both of these goals make sense. And on the heels of their midterm victory, it behooves Republicans to combat the obstructionist image that their liberal opponents have tarred them with, especially if they hope to win back the White House in 2016.

If, as it seems now, Boehner gets his way, it will be portrayed as a victory for the party establishment and a sign that the Tea Party’s sway over Capitol Hill is waning. It will also not unreasonably be thought of as a defeat for Cruz, whose first two years in the Senate have been highlighted by his ability to exercise an unusually powerful influence over both events and the nature of the debate on these issues for a freshman. But even if he loses this battle, Cruz’s interests are by no means hurt by Boehner’s victory.

Cruz’s goal here is not just to force congressional Republicans to, as he said yesterday, “do what you promised” when campaigning against the president’s executive orders. Even if Boehner gets his way this month and avoids a shutdown, Cruz will be able to come back and demand more than another mere symbolic vote against Obama’s orders in the spring. Indeed, with the Department of Homeland Security on a hiring spree in order to find enough staff in order to carry out Obama’s amnesty plan, support for a defunding proposal that will stop DHS in its tracks is likely to grow in the coming months, meaning that this won’t be the last time Cruz bedevils Boehner on a potential shutdown confrontation.

Yet just as important from Cruz’s perspective is the fact that these votes will demonstrate to the conservative base of the GOP that Cruz isn’t merely an annoyance to his Senate colleagues and Boehner. Win or lose, these votes and the battles on the floor of both the House and the Senate will allow Cruz to assume the mantle of the leader of conservative insurgents against the Washington establishment in a way that not even some of the popular Republican governors thinking about running for president will be able to do. Any result, be it victory or defeat, on the efforts to stop Obama’s immigration orders will burnish Cruz’s image as the one member of the Senate who isn’t afraid to challenge either party, a formula that he rightly thinks will be useful in presidential primaries in 2016.

Boehner and the establishment may fend off Cruz’s insurgency both now and in March. But this won’t be the last word on the senator. Quite the contrary: Cruz now believes with good reason that he is in a no-lose situation on both immigration and the future of Congress. Even if the speaker wins Boehner v. Cruz Part Two, Cruz isn’t coming out of the situation as the loser, no matter who wins.

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Obama’s Deportation Deja Vu

It’s a wonder why President Obama’s newest deportation guidelines would even be necessary, as the administration has long insisted it doesn’t focus deportation efforts on young, non-criminal illegal immigrants who would otherwise be covered under the DREAM Act. As the always enlightening Ruben Navarrette points out:

Then there is the inconvenient fact that we’re not supposed to even need this kind of policy change because, according to Obama, his administration isn’t deporting DREAM’ers at all; instead, it’s concentrating its enforcement efforts on criminals. That’s exactly what Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos during a March 2011 trip to El Salvador. A couple of weeks later, Obama had to swallow those words when — during an education town hall meeting in Washington, sponsored by Univision — he was confronted by a DREAM’er holding deportation papers. So now we’re supposed to applaud the administration for not deporting people the president had claimed weren’t being deported in the first place.

Here is what Obama claimed during his Univision interview in March 2011:

President [Obama] said,“we have refocused our efforts on those who have engaged in criminal activity.” Furthermore, he said, “We aren’t going around rounding up students,” the president told Ramos last Wednesday, “that is completely false.”

As Navarrette writes, this was debunked just weeks later when a student confronted Obama with her deportation papers at a Q&A session.

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It’s a wonder why President Obama’s newest deportation guidelines would even be necessary, as the administration has long insisted it doesn’t focus deportation efforts on young, non-criminal illegal immigrants who would otherwise be covered under the DREAM Act. As the always enlightening Ruben Navarrette points out:

Then there is the inconvenient fact that we’re not supposed to even need this kind of policy change because, according to Obama, his administration isn’t deporting DREAM’ers at all; instead, it’s concentrating its enforcement efforts on criminals. That’s exactly what Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos during a March 2011 trip to El Salvador. A couple of weeks later, Obama had to swallow those words when — during an education town hall meeting in Washington, sponsored by Univision — he was confronted by a DREAM’er holding deportation papers. So now we’re supposed to applaud the administration for not deporting people the president had claimed weren’t being deported in the first place.

Here is what Obama claimed during his Univision interview in March 2011:

President [Obama] said,“we have refocused our efforts on those who have engaged in criminal activity.” Furthermore, he said, “We aren’t going around rounding up students,” the president told Ramos last Wednesday, “that is completely false.”

As Navarrette writes, this was debunked just weeks later when a student confronted Obama with her deportation papers at a Q&A session.

That’s not all. Remember less than a year ago, when the left was heralding (and conservatives were decrying) President Obama’s decision to supposedly “enforce the Dream Act” by “executive fiat”?

In August of 2011, President Obama was under pressure from Democratic lawmakers to do something about the spike in deportations. So the Department of Homeland Security issued new illegal immigration enforcement guidelines, saying that it would curb deportations of non-criminals, people who had been in the U.S. for an extended time, veterans, young people, and other groups.

“If fully implemented, the new process should stop virtually all DREAM Act deportations,” read a press release from DREAM advocate Sen. Dick Durbin’s office.

At the time, Obama himself likened the rules to the DREAM Act in a speech to Hispanic political leaders. “[T]he Department of Homeland Security is applying common-sense standards for immigration enforcement,” he said. “And we’ve made progress so that our enforcement policies prioritize criminals who endanger our communities, not students trying to achieve the American Dream.”

If these students were already supposed to be protected, per Obama’s “common-sense” policy, why would this latest move even be necessary?

Sure, there are some provisions that seem to expand the August 2011 memo. The previous guidelines only impacted illegal immigrants who were presently involved in deportation proceedings, but, under the new guidelines, it appears that any illegal immigrant who meets the qualifications can apply for a work permit and two-year reprieve from deportation.

However — that also means they’ll have to intentionally make themselves known to the deportation authorities, with no guarantee that they’ll be approved.

And the newer guidelines do not exempt whole groups from deportation. The DHS says it will still consider illegal immigrants on a case-by-case basis, even if they meet all of the requirements.

In many ways, the new guidelines actually appear to be narrower than the guidelines issued in 2011. The new ones focus on specific ages (i.e. prioritizing those who came to the U.S. under the age of 15, and those who are currently under the age of 30). The specifics hew closely to the details in Sen. Marco Rubio’s version of the DREAM Act — which Obama has set back with this announcement — but they actually ignore many of the people who were already supposed to be protected under DHS’s 2011 guidelines.

The substance of Obama’s policy is laudable. Young, noncriminal illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. through not fault of their own should not be a deportation priority — not just because we don’t have the resources to round them up, but because it’s the right thing to do. These illegal immigrants are blameless, and many of them know no other home than America. The question is whether Obama’s new guidelines will have much of an effect. Despite DHS’s decision to focus mainly on criminal deportations last summer, the proportion of criminal to noncriminal illegal immigrants undergoing deportation proceedings has actually declined, according to Syracuse University. At the end of the day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement still has the discretion to decide each case on an individual basis, as there has been no law passed by Congress.

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Does the Obama Administration’s Anti-Terrorism Strategy Rely on Luck?

The administration is sensitive to the notion that they are relying on terrorists’ ineptitude and alert citizenry to defend America. On Fox News Sunday, the continually hapless John Brennan had this to say when asked if the administration was “more lucky than good in some of these terror cases”:

BRENNAN: I consider that homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence and the military have done an outstanding job since 9/11.

You know, when I hear these references to being lucky, tell that to the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who are serving in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, who are at our points of entry, who are working around the clock here in the United States and abroad. That’s not luck.

That’s patriotism. That’s dedication. That’s capability and talent. And so we’ve been able to stop them in their tracks. They are determined. They are going to continue to look for opportunities to get here to the United States. This is something that they have pledged to do.

I think we have a very strong track record, and that’s why we have redundant capabilities in place. We’re not lucky. We’re good.

Huh? How did the patriotism of American servicemen get into this? Brennan’s obvious discomfort — and resort to an off-putting non sequitur — suggests that the administration is becoming a tad sensitive to the criticisms that, given the four attacks on the homeland, something isn’t quite working properly. On the same program, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Peter King introduced some much needed candor:

LIEBERMAN: Well, after the fact of the attempted bombing attack last Saturday night, the reaction was not just excellent, it was almost miraculous — 53 hours and we’ve apprehended him. Great cooperation. Just the kind of work that we all hoped would happen when we set up the Department of Homeland Security post-9/11.

But the fact is that we were lucky. We did not prevent the attempted attack. And that’s the — in some sense, the fourth break through our defenses. Last spring in Arkansas, Hasan, the Detroit bomber and this one.

Look, we’re in a big open society. And if people are fanatical enough to put their own lives on the line — “I want to kill other innocent human beings” — it’s hard to stop them every time, but that has to be our goal. So I’d say in terms of prevention, the system failed.

And what we’ve got to do now is to go back, put all the facts together and look at every point. Was there something the U.S. government, our allies, could have done to stop Faisal Shahzad before he parked that car in Times Square?

WALLACE: Same basic question picking up on that with you, Congressman King. Is there something more the Obama administration could have done with at least three attacks in the last six months — Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and now Shahzad?

KING: Well, I was very critical of the administration for the Major Hasan shooting. I was also very critical of the Abdulmutallab incident on Christmas Day.

As far as this one, Chris, the evidence isn’t in yet as to what was available. Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t know if we could have stopped him before he got — Shahzad before he got to Times Square. We’ll have to wait until, you know, all the dots are put out there. It’s very difficult because we don’t get very much information from this administration.

But one real criticism I do have, Chris, is what happened in the last hours of the investigation. Beginning some time on Monday afternoon, high administration sources were leaking out the most confidential, classified information which compromised this investigation, put lives at risk and very probably caused Shahzad to escape and make it undetected to the airport.

They were putting out information I’d never heard of in a — in a case of this magnitude, and it was coming from the administration, coming from Washington. And I know the troops on the ground in New York were very concerned about it.

The administration’s hyper-defensiveness goes hand-in-hand with its refusal to open itself up to scrutiny when it comes to examining these incidents. As we saw with the refusal to respond to Lieberman’s subpoena on the Fort Hood massacre and the refusal to release information about recidivism of  released Guantanamo detainees, the administration insists that we take it on faith that they are “good” and have just the right policies in place. The track record they are developing, however, suggests otherwise. In any event, that’s not how our system should work. We have another political branch of government, not to mention the American people, that deserves answers to hard questions.

It is only because Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have largely allowed the administration to avoid oversight that it has gotten away with such a dearth of transparency. That may change this November. We may then finally discover just how lucky we’ve been.

The administration is sensitive to the notion that they are relying on terrorists’ ineptitude and alert citizenry to defend America. On Fox News Sunday, the continually hapless John Brennan had this to say when asked if the administration was “more lucky than good in some of these terror cases”:

BRENNAN: I consider that homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence and the military have done an outstanding job since 9/11.

You know, when I hear these references to being lucky, tell that to the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who are serving in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, who are at our points of entry, who are working around the clock here in the United States and abroad. That’s not luck.

That’s patriotism. That’s dedication. That’s capability and talent. And so we’ve been able to stop them in their tracks. They are determined. They are going to continue to look for opportunities to get here to the United States. This is something that they have pledged to do.

I think we have a very strong track record, and that’s why we have redundant capabilities in place. We’re not lucky. We’re good.

Huh? How did the patriotism of American servicemen get into this? Brennan’s obvious discomfort — and resort to an off-putting non sequitur — suggests that the administration is becoming a tad sensitive to the criticisms that, given the four attacks on the homeland, something isn’t quite working properly. On the same program, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Peter King introduced some much needed candor:

LIEBERMAN: Well, after the fact of the attempted bombing attack last Saturday night, the reaction was not just excellent, it was almost miraculous — 53 hours and we’ve apprehended him. Great cooperation. Just the kind of work that we all hoped would happen when we set up the Department of Homeland Security post-9/11.

But the fact is that we were lucky. We did not prevent the attempted attack. And that’s the — in some sense, the fourth break through our defenses. Last spring in Arkansas, Hasan, the Detroit bomber and this one.

Look, we’re in a big open society. And if people are fanatical enough to put their own lives on the line — “I want to kill other innocent human beings” — it’s hard to stop them every time, but that has to be our goal. So I’d say in terms of prevention, the system failed.

And what we’ve got to do now is to go back, put all the facts together and look at every point. Was there something the U.S. government, our allies, could have done to stop Faisal Shahzad before he parked that car in Times Square?

WALLACE: Same basic question picking up on that with you, Congressman King. Is there something more the Obama administration could have done with at least three attacks in the last six months — Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and now Shahzad?

KING: Well, I was very critical of the administration for the Major Hasan shooting. I was also very critical of the Abdulmutallab incident on Christmas Day.

As far as this one, Chris, the evidence isn’t in yet as to what was available. Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t know if we could have stopped him before he got — Shahzad before he got to Times Square. We’ll have to wait until, you know, all the dots are put out there. It’s very difficult because we don’t get very much information from this administration.

But one real criticism I do have, Chris, is what happened in the last hours of the investigation. Beginning some time on Monday afternoon, high administration sources were leaking out the most confidential, classified information which compromised this investigation, put lives at risk and very probably caused Shahzad to escape and make it undetected to the airport.

They were putting out information I’d never heard of in a — in a case of this magnitude, and it was coming from the administration, coming from Washington. And I know the troops on the ground in New York were very concerned about it.

The administration’s hyper-defensiveness goes hand-in-hand with its refusal to open itself up to scrutiny when it comes to examining these incidents. As we saw with the refusal to respond to Lieberman’s subpoena on the Fort Hood massacre and the refusal to release information about recidivism of  released Guantanamo detainees, the administration insists that we take it on faith that they are “good” and have just the right policies in place. The track record they are developing, however, suggests otherwise. In any event, that’s not how our system should work. We have another political branch of government, not to mention the American people, that deserves answers to hard questions.

It is only because Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have largely allowed the administration to avoid oversight that it has gotten away with such a dearth of transparency. That may change this November. We may then finally discover just how lucky we’ve been.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The exception to the rule that I never mention poetry.

Dan Coats takes a big lead in Indiana. “Newly chosen Republican nominee Dan Coats earns 51% support while his Democratic rival Brad Ellsworth’s attracts 36% in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Indiana Senate race following Tuesday’s GOP Primary.”

A huge majority — 60 to 32 percent — still favor offshore drilling. And that’s in the Daily Kos poll.

When more people get hired, more enter the job market, and there aren’t enough new jobs to absorb them. So despite 290,000 new jobs: “The unemployment rate, however, crept up to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March, mostly the government said, because about 805,000 people joined the labor force either working or looking for work. Yet in a sign that many will not be able to find a job even as the economy improves, the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months hit 6.7 million, nearly 46 percent of the unemployed.”

The result of 15 months of Obama’s Iran policy: “Iran will not stop enriching uranium and has a right to pursue atomic technology, the country’s foreign minister told UN Security Council diplomats at a private dinner. A US official familiar with Thursday night’s meeting in New York told The Associated Press that Manouchehr Mottaki was defiant in the face of demands that Iran halt the process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. … Mottaki said Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, according to the US official. The foreign minister said that position was firm and would not change even if Iran accepted a proposal to send uranium from a medical research reactor in Teheran abroad for reprocessing, the official said Friday.”

Maybe it is because, as Israel’s UN Ambassador says, the sanctions under contemplation “are not going to be crippling. … They’re not even going to be biting. … They’re going to be moderate, watered down, diluted.”

Eric Holder only allows career employees with nice things to say about the administration to speak up. “So here were two customs officers speaking on national television about what they did in this case, revealing to the world (and any terrorist networks) the strengths and weaknesses of our airline-security system. They obviously could not appear without having gotten permission from the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which is handling the prosecution of this case. Yet Eric Holder refuses to let his front-line Voting Section employees talk about what happened in the New Black Panther case (even purely factual matters having nothing to due with any DOJ deliberations), unlawfully defying subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Ronald Brownstein is surprised: “The great political surprise of Obama’s presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach in response to the economic crisis.” I think it’s because Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach.

The exception to the rule that I never mention poetry.

Dan Coats takes a big lead in Indiana. “Newly chosen Republican nominee Dan Coats earns 51% support while his Democratic rival Brad Ellsworth’s attracts 36% in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Indiana Senate race following Tuesday’s GOP Primary.”

A huge majority — 60 to 32 percent — still favor offshore drilling. And that’s in the Daily Kos poll.

When more people get hired, more enter the job market, and there aren’t enough new jobs to absorb them. So despite 290,000 new jobs: “The unemployment rate, however, crept up to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March, mostly the government said, because about 805,000 people joined the labor force either working or looking for work. Yet in a sign that many will not be able to find a job even as the economy improves, the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months hit 6.7 million, nearly 46 percent of the unemployed.”

The result of 15 months of Obama’s Iran policy: “Iran will not stop enriching uranium and has a right to pursue atomic technology, the country’s foreign minister told UN Security Council diplomats at a private dinner. A US official familiar with Thursday night’s meeting in New York told The Associated Press that Manouchehr Mottaki was defiant in the face of demands that Iran halt the process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. … Mottaki said Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, according to the US official. The foreign minister said that position was firm and would not change even if Iran accepted a proposal to send uranium from a medical research reactor in Teheran abroad for reprocessing, the official said Friday.”

Maybe it is because, as Israel’s UN Ambassador says, the sanctions under contemplation “are not going to be crippling. … They’re not even going to be biting. … They’re going to be moderate, watered down, diluted.”

Eric Holder only allows career employees with nice things to say about the administration to speak up. “So here were two customs officers speaking on national television about what they did in this case, revealing to the world (and any terrorist networks) the strengths and weaknesses of our airline-security system. They obviously could not appear without having gotten permission from the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which is handling the prosecution of this case. Yet Eric Holder refuses to let his front-line Voting Section employees talk about what happened in the New Black Panther case (even purely factual matters having nothing to due with any DOJ deliberations), unlawfully defying subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Ronald Brownstein is surprised: “The great political surprise of Obama’s presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach in response to the economic crisis.” I think it’s because Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach.

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“Islamic Terrorism” Returns

The Los Angeles Times has a report detailing “a rising threat from homegrown extremism.” It seems that even the Obama administration can’t ignore the obvious:

Anti-terrorism officials and experts see signs of accelerated radicalization among American Muslims, driven by a wave of English-language online propaganda and reflected in aspiring fighters’ trips to hot spots such as Pakistan and Somalia.

The Department of Homeland Security saw fit earlier this year to warn about “right-wing extremism” (all those Second and Tenth Amendment nuts), although strangely it has yet to produce a comprehensive report on the pattern of extreme Islamic terrorist activity. But perhaps Janet Napolitano is waking from her slumber:

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued her strongest public comments yet on the homegrown threat.

“We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as Al Qaeda,” Napolitano said in a speech in New York. “Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.”

Officials acknowledged that her tone had changed, though they said terrorism has been her focus since becoming Homeland Security chief.

For an administration that had excised “Islamic fundamentalism” and “Islamic extremism” from its vocabulary and referred to the war on terror as “overseas contingent operations,” this is a pleasing turn of events if it does, in fact, mark a change. One by one the excuses for averting our eyes about the nature of the threat we face seem to be losing credibility. Turns out poverty doesn’t breed Islamic radicalism. As the report notes:

Some feel radicalization in the United States has been worse than authorities thought for some time.

“People focused on the idea that we’re different, we’re better at integrating Muslims than Europe is,” said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington. “But there’s radicalization — especially among converts [and] newcomers, such as the Somali case shows. I think young U.S. Muslims today are as prone to radicalization as Muslims in Europe.” …

“The profile in Europe is in general quite different [from U.S. extremists]: more working-class or even underclass,” said a European intelligence official who requested anonymity for security reasons. “But it’s a bit simplistic to make assumptions. We have seen everything in Europe — educated people, doctors involved in terrorism. The underclass argument is not enough.”

And the notion, embraced most specifically by the president, that we can defang Islamic terrorism by humbling ourselves, hobbling our own legitimate security needs, and reaching out to the “Muslim World” by parroting back their victimology seems increasingly dubious. Yet the Times seems mystified that these gambits haven’t really helped: “The Obama administration began the year with gestures to the Muslim world. President Obama promised to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and made a historic speech in Cairo. ” Wow, and with all that, still we have an uptick in homegrown terror.

What’s missing here is any indication that the president himself is willing to drop the pretense of political correctness, address the reality of Islamic radicalism, and revise his approach to national security accordingly. In fact, he and his attorney general seem to be going in the opposite direction, returning to a criminal-justice model for terrorism, blissfully unaware of the danger of providing KSM with a civilian trial to preach and convert to the cause of Islamic radicalism even more potential terrorists. When Obama is willing to call Fort Hood an act of Islamic terror and shut down the KSM circus, we’ll know we’re finally making progress.

The Los Angeles Times has a report detailing “a rising threat from homegrown extremism.” It seems that even the Obama administration can’t ignore the obvious:

Anti-terrorism officials and experts see signs of accelerated radicalization among American Muslims, driven by a wave of English-language online propaganda and reflected in aspiring fighters’ trips to hot spots such as Pakistan and Somalia.

The Department of Homeland Security saw fit earlier this year to warn about “right-wing extremism” (all those Second and Tenth Amendment nuts), although strangely it has yet to produce a comprehensive report on the pattern of extreme Islamic terrorist activity. But perhaps Janet Napolitano is waking from her slumber:

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued her strongest public comments yet on the homegrown threat.

“We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as Al Qaeda,” Napolitano said in a speech in New York. “Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.”

Officials acknowledged that her tone had changed, though they said terrorism has been her focus since becoming Homeland Security chief.

For an administration that had excised “Islamic fundamentalism” and “Islamic extremism” from its vocabulary and referred to the war on terror as “overseas contingent operations,” this is a pleasing turn of events if it does, in fact, mark a change. One by one the excuses for averting our eyes about the nature of the threat we face seem to be losing credibility. Turns out poverty doesn’t breed Islamic radicalism. As the report notes:

Some feel radicalization in the United States has been worse than authorities thought for some time.

“People focused on the idea that we’re different, we’re better at integrating Muslims than Europe is,” said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington. “But there’s radicalization — especially among converts [and] newcomers, such as the Somali case shows. I think young U.S. Muslims today are as prone to radicalization as Muslims in Europe.” …

“The profile in Europe is in general quite different [from U.S. extremists]: more working-class or even underclass,” said a European intelligence official who requested anonymity for security reasons. “But it’s a bit simplistic to make assumptions. We have seen everything in Europe — educated people, doctors involved in terrorism. The underclass argument is not enough.”

And the notion, embraced most specifically by the president, that we can defang Islamic terrorism by humbling ourselves, hobbling our own legitimate security needs, and reaching out to the “Muslim World” by parroting back their victimology seems increasingly dubious. Yet the Times seems mystified that these gambits haven’t really helped: “The Obama administration began the year with gestures to the Muslim world. President Obama promised to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and made a historic speech in Cairo. ” Wow, and with all that, still we have an uptick in homegrown terror.

What’s missing here is any indication that the president himself is willing to drop the pretense of political correctness, address the reality of Islamic radicalism, and revise his approach to national security accordingly. In fact, he and his attorney general seem to be going in the opposite direction, returning to a criminal-justice model for terrorism, blissfully unaware of the danger of providing KSM with a civilian trial to preach and convert to the cause of Islamic radicalism even more potential terrorists. When Obama is willing to call Fort Hood an act of Islamic terror and shut down the KSM circus, we’ll know we’re finally making progress.

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We May Learn Something, Finally

Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden stepped down from the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department. The reason, we are told, is that he really didn’t get along with the attorney general, the career lawyers, or the political appointees. And the White House didn’t care for him. Well, sometimes things just don’t work out.

But that means we’ll have a confirmation hearing for the position responsible for a great many things in the Justice Department, including criminal matters and “federal programs” (Guantanamo). A high-profile confirmation hearing provides the Senate with the opportunity to get some answers out of a very tight-lipped Justice Department.

For starters, what’s become of the internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility over the dismissal of the New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case? This week, Congressmen Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith penned a letter to Holder that read in part:

We remain concerned that the Justice Department is prolonging OPR’s investigation as a pretense to ignore inquiries from Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into the sudden and unexplained dismissal of voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party. Any written report by OPR will be prepared exclusively for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, with no guarantee that it will ever be made public.

After five months of unanswered questions, the American people can tell a cover up when they see one. If the Justice Department had any credible reason for dropping these charges, what do they have to hide by providing those answers to Congress?

Perhaps if the confirmation of DOJ’s No. 2 is at issue, Holder will cough up some answers. And by the way, why was the case dismissed?

Then there’s the decision to give KSM a civilian trial. It seems that other than the lefty lawyer brigade at DOJ, Holder didn’t consult with anyone but his wife and brother, not even the New York City Police Department or the Department of Homeland Security. What process does Justice go through? Was the White House really never consulted? Which lawyers were involved, and what consideration was given to the release of national-security data? A key confirmation hearing is the time to get some information. I’m sure the most transparent administration in history will be willing to share all.

There has been precious little oversight of the Holder Justice Department by the Democratic Congress. Now senators will have their opportunity to ask some hard questions. It is, as they say, a teachable moment.

Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden stepped down from the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department. The reason, we are told, is that he really didn’t get along with the attorney general, the career lawyers, or the political appointees. And the White House didn’t care for him. Well, sometimes things just don’t work out.

But that means we’ll have a confirmation hearing for the position responsible for a great many things in the Justice Department, including criminal matters and “federal programs” (Guantanamo). A high-profile confirmation hearing provides the Senate with the opportunity to get some answers out of a very tight-lipped Justice Department.

For starters, what’s become of the internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility over the dismissal of the New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case? This week, Congressmen Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith penned a letter to Holder that read in part:

We remain concerned that the Justice Department is prolonging OPR’s investigation as a pretense to ignore inquiries from Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into the sudden and unexplained dismissal of voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party. Any written report by OPR will be prepared exclusively for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, with no guarantee that it will ever be made public.

After five months of unanswered questions, the American people can tell a cover up when they see one. If the Justice Department had any credible reason for dropping these charges, what do they have to hide by providing those answers to Congress?

Perhaps if the confirmation of DOJ’s No. 2 is at issue, Holder will cough up some answers. And by the way, why was the case dismissed?

Then there’s the decision to give KSM a civilian trial. It seems that other than the lefty lawyer brigade at DOJ, Holder didn’t consult with anyone but his wife and brother, not even the New York City Police Department or the Department of Homeland Security. What process does Justice go through? Was the White House really never consulted? Which lawyers were involved, and what consideration was given to the release of national-security data? A key confirmation hearing is the time to get some information. I’m sure the most transparent administration in history will be willing to share all.

There has been precious little oversight of the Holder Justice Department by the Democratic Congress. Now senators will have their opportunity to ask some hard questions. It is, as they say, a teachable moment.

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Are We Secure?

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded “security advisory system,” the terrorist “threat level” is currently yellow. To meet the elevated danger, citizens are urged to “develop alternate routes to/from work or school and practice them.” If the threat level rises to orange, or “high risk,” we are supposed to “exercise caution when traveling.” If it rises to red, or “severe risk,” we should, among other untoward things, “expect traffic delays.”

DHS’s traffic-light warning system is easy to mock, especially by New Yorkers like me who routinely expect traffic delays and, thanks to the vagaries of the subway system, are constantly compelled to practice alternate routes to work–whether we want to or not. 

But what about the DHS itself? In 2003, in the aftermath of the worst attack on our country in its history, the establishment of the agency was the centerpiece of the biggest reorganization of government since the New Deal. Five years later, how is it faring? By the most important measure, it is faring very well indeed. Against all expectations, the United States has not been struck again since September 11. The homeland appears to be secure.

But is that the work of the DHS or the FBI and CIA or the U.S. Army, or dumb luck, or a combination of all of the above? It is impossible to know. What is possible to know is that DHS is plagued by a number of severe problems. It ranks last or next-to-last in the U.S. government’s survey of Best Places to Work survey. In addition to “serious morale” issues–a GAO finding–some of the ailments of the previous fractured system of homeland protection are re-emerging, and some new ills are cropping up as well.

In creating the DHS, President Bush declared that “the changing nature of the threats facing America requires a new government structure to protect against invisible enemies that can strike with a wide variety of weapons.” His idea was to reconfigure “the current confusing patchwork of government activities into a single department whose primary mission is to protect our homeland.” That seemed reasonable enough in theory, promising efficiencies of all sorts in agencies with complementary and overlapping missions.

But it also promised to be extremely problematic in practice. Anyone with any familiarity with federal bureaucracies knows that combining two into one is as arduous a task as mating kangaroos with rabbits. In this instance, the proposal was to unite 22 very different bureaucratic animals, ranging from the Secret Service to the Coast Guard. The result is a lumbering behemoth, with a massive 180,000 employees spread out over hundreds of locations and subject to oversight by 86 Congressional committees. Although strong in certain things, it is also an unwieldy creature that may be quite ill-adapted to its initial primary mission of keeping the country secure from a major terrorist attack.

One problematic part of the venture is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In 2005, as is well known, it did a heckuva of a job in mishandling the consequences of Hurricane Katrina. Lessons are said to have been learned from that experience and immense resources have been invested in reconfiguring FEMA’s plans to cope with future natural disasters, ranging from tornados to earthquakes. That is fine, and necessary. Yet it means that DHS as a whole ends up compelled to devote a significant fraction of management resources to preparing for weather-related contingencies rather than focusing on the central threat.

 “June 1 is, of course, as you know, the kick-off for hurricane season,” explained Michael Chertoff, Secretary of DHS, at a press conference earlier this month. “I don’t think the official prediction for the season is out yet…In 2006, it was also a pretty mild season, but I hope that doesn’t lull us into believing we don’t have to prepare for 2008.” If the highest registers of the bureaucracy are deeply into weather forecasting, some of the lower registers are off into other ventures that also have zero connection to the larger goals of the reform. 

Another component of DHS is the United States Fire Administration, whose mission is to reduce the financial and human costs of one of our country’s major killers. “Take a flashlight with you,” the Fire Administration advises anyone checking into a hotel or motel. “If the fire is in your room, get out quickly. Close the door, sound the alarm and notify the front desk.” No reasonable person would quarrel with such instructions, but how relevant is this to stopping the next Mohammed Atta?

The Coast Guard, too, has major missions completely unrelated to homeland defense. These include the regulation of maritime navigation and safety, protection of the marine environment, search and rescue, and ice-breaking. All of which raises the question: has consolidation of so many disparate agencies, each with its own set of objectives not directly related to homeland security, made us safer or merely rejiggered the organizational charts?

The question is unanswerable and we are confronted with an unpleasant paradox. Whether the warning light is green, light, or red, unless and until a second major terrorist attack takes place, we won’t know whether DHS is up to its job. And at that moment, by definition, the DHS’s protective function will have been shown to fail. If the target happens to be a motel or hotel, we will be needing our flashlights and calling the front desk.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded “security advisory system,” the terrorist “threat level” is currently yellow. To meet the elevated danger, citizens are urged to “develop alternate routes to/from work or school and practice them.” If the threat level rises to orange, or “high risk,” we are supposed to “exercise caution when traveling.” If it rises to red, or “severe risk,” we should, among other untoward things, “expect traffic delays.”

DHS’s traffic-light warning system is easy to mock, especially by New Yorkers like me who routinely expect traffic delays and, thanks to the vagaries of the subway system, are constantly compelled to practice alternate routes to work–whether we want to or not. 

But what about the DHS itself? In 2003, in the aftermath of the worst attack on our country in its history, the establishment of the agency was the centerpiece of the biggest reorganization of government since the New Deal. Five years later, how is it faring? By the most important measure, it is faring very well indeed. Against all expectations, the United States has not been struck again since September 11. The homeland appears to be secure.

But is that the work of the DHS or the FBI and CIA or the U.S. Army, or dumb luck, or a combination of all of the above? It is impossible to know. What is possible to know is that DHS is plagued by a number of severe problems. It ranks last or next-to-last in the U.S. government’s survey of Best Places to Work survey. In addition to “serious morale” issues–a GAO finding–some of the ailments of the previous fractured system of homeland protection are re-emerging, and some new ills are cropping up as well.

In creating the DHS, President Bush declared that “the changing nature of the threats facing America requires a new government structure to protect against invisible enemies that can strike with a wide variety of weapons.” His idea was to reconfigure “the current confusing patchwork of government activities into a single department whose primary mission is to protect our homeland.” That seemed reasonable enough in theory, promising efficiencies of all sorts in agencies with complementary and overlapping missions.

But it also promised to be extremely problematic in practice. Anyone with any familiarity with federal bureaucracies knows that combining two into one is as arduous a task as mating kangaroos with rabbits. In this instance, the proposal was to unite 22 very different bureaucratic animals, ranging from the Secret Service to the Coast Guard. The result is a lumbering behemoth, with a massive 180,000 employees spread out over hundreds of locations and subject to oversight by 86 Congressional committees. Although strong in certain things, it is also an unwieldy creature that may be quite ill-adapted to its initial primary mission of keeping the country secure from a major terrorist attack.

One problematic part of the venture is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In 2005, as is well known, it did a heckuva of a job in mishandling the consequences of Hurricane Katrina. Lessons are said to have been learned from that experience and immense resources have been invested in reconfiguring FEMA’s plans to cope with future natural disasters, ranging from tornados to earthquakes. That is fine, and necessary. Yet it means that DHS as a whole ends up compelled to devote a significant fraction of management resources to preparing for weather-related contingencies rather than focusing on the central threat.

 “June 1 is, of course, as you know, the kick-off for hurricane season,” explained Michael Chertoff, Secretary of DHS, at a press conference earlier this month. “I don’t think the official prediction for the season is out yet…In 2006, it was also a pretty mild season, but I hope that doesn’t lull us into believing we don’t have to prepare for 2008.” If the highest registers of the bureaucracy are deeply into weather forecasting, some of the lower registers are off into other ventures that also have zero connection to the larger goals of the reform. 

Another component of DHS is the United States Fire Administration, whose mission is to reduce the financial and human costs of one of our country’s major killers. “Take a flashlight with you,” the Fire Administration advises anyone checking into a hotel or motel. “If the fire is in your room, get out quickly. Close the door, sound the alarm and notify the front desk.” No reasonable person would quarrel with such instructions, but how relevant is this to stopping the next Mohammed Atta?

The Coast Guard, too, has major missions completely unrelated to homeland defense. These include the regulation of maritime navigation and safety, protection of the marine environment, search and rescue, and ice-breaking. All of which raises the question: has consolidation of so many disparate agencies, each with its own set of objectives not directly related to homeland security, made us safer or merely rejiggered the organizational charts?

The question is unanswerable and we are confronted with an unpleasant paradox. Whether the warning light is green, light, or red, unless and until a second major terrorist attack takes place, we won’t know whether DHS is up to its job. And at that moment, by definition, the DHS’s protective function will have been shown to fail. If the target happens to be a motel or hotel, we will be needing our flashlights and calling the front desk.

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No More Jihadists

The Associated Press is reporting that the U.S. government is moving to kill off jihadists, Islamo-fascists, and mujahedeen. Not the people: the words. Reports from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center recommend discontinuing the use of such terms, because, as the AP report says, “Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates.”

When we are locked in a struggle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world, there is legitimate cause to be concerned about terminology that may backfire. Some of the verboten terms (e.g., mujahedeen) are surely too laudatory; others (such as “Islamo-fascists”) too offensive to ordinary Muslims who are otherwise unsympathetic to Al Qaeda. But the question is: If we eschew these words, what how are we supposed to refer to our enemies?

The British government, which led the move in this direction, has adopted the phrase “anti-Islamic activity” to refer to what Al Qaeda and its ilk are up to. That doesn’t seem much of an improvement to me: Isn’t it a little presumptuous of non-Muslim governments to decide what activities are “anti-Islamic”?

The U.S. government reports, which are being adopted by the State Department and other agencies, counsel using more anodyne phrases such as “violent extremist” or “terrorist.” But while less likely to give offense, those terms are also so vague as not to be helpful in many contexts. As many critics of the phrase “global war on terror” have pointed out, we are not fighting all terrorists–i.e., we are not mobilizing the resources of the U.S. government to destroy the ETA or the Tamil Tigers. Another possible suggestion is to use “religious extremists” or something similar. But that doesn’t help much either, because it suggests that bin Laden et al. are genuinely religious, and it also doesn’t distinguish them from, say, abortion-clinic bombers.

The term takfiri is both more accurate and less likely to give offense to normal Muslims, insofar as it refers to the practice of bin Laden & Co. of declaring Muslims who disagree with their extreme teachings as apostates. Unfortunately, almost no one in the Western world knows what takfiri means, so it’s not a word likely to come tripping off the tongues of our leaders.

A related quandary is what to call the offensive against these whatchamacallits. The use of “war” may well go the way of “jihadist” on the grounds that it inflames Muslims into thinking we are waging a war against all of them and that it actually elevates people who are simply criminals into semi-legitimate combatants. In 2005, the Rumsfeld Pentagon tried to move away from “war” by coming up with GSAVE–the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism–as its preferred term. That was roundly hooted down and mercifully disappeared when President Bush got wind of it.

I am quite ready to concede that existing terminology–the Long War, the Global Struggle Against Terrorism, Islamic (or Islamist) terrorists, jihadists, and the like–is inadequate. But it’s hard to beat something with nothing. And so far I have not heard any terribly compelling alternatives to replace the terms that, for better or worse, have gained widespread currency since 2001.

The Associated Press is reporting that the U.S. government is moving to kill off jihadists, Islamo-fascists, and mujahedeen. Not the people: the words. Reports from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center recommend discontinuing the use of such terms, because, as the AP report says, “Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates.”

When we are locked in a struggle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world, there is legitimate cause to be concerned about terminology that may backfire. Some of the verboten terms (e.g., mujahedeen) are surely too laudatory; others (such as “Islamo-fascists”) too offensive to ordinary Muslims who are otherwise unsympathetic to Al Qaeda. But the question is: If we eschew these words, what how are we supposed to refer to our enemies?

The British government, which led the move in this direction, has adopted the phrase “anti-Islamic activity” to refer to what Al Qaeda and its ilk are up to. That doesn’t seem much of an improvement to me: Isn’t it a little presumptuous of non-Muslim governments to decide what activities are “anti-Islamic”?

The U.S. government reports, which are being adopted by the State Department and other agencies, counsel using more anodyne phrases such as “violent extremist” or “terrorist.” But while less likely to give offense, those terms are also so vague as not to be helpful in many contexts. As many critics of the phrase “global war on terror” have pointed out, we are not fighting all terrorists–i.e., we are not mobilizing the resources of the U.S. government to destroy the ETA or the Tamil Tigers. Another possible suggestion is to use “religious extremists” or something similar. But that doesn’t help much either, because it suggests that bin Laden et al. are genuinely religious, and it also doesn’t distinguish them from, say, abortion-clinic bombers.

The term takfiri is both more accurate and less likely to give offense to normal Muslims, insofar as it refers to the practice of bin Laden & Co. of declaring Muslims who disagree with their extreme teachings as apostates. Unfortunately, almost no one in the Western world knows what takfiri means, so it’s not a word likely to come tripping off the tongues of our leaders.

A related quandary is what to call the offensive against these whatchamacallits. The use of “war” may well go the way of “jihadist” on the grounds that it inflames Muslims into thinking we are waging a war against all of them and that it actually elevates people who are simply criminals into semi-legitimate combatants. In 2005, the Rumsfeld Pentagon tried to move away from “war” by coming up with GSAVE–the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism–as its preferred term. That was roundly hooted down and mercifully disappeared when President Bush got wind of it.

I am quite ready to concede that existing terminology–the Long War, the Global Struggle Against Terrorism, Islamic (or Islamist) terrorists, jihadists, and the like–is inadequate. But it’s hard to beat something with nothing. And so far I have not heard any terribly compelling alternatives to replace the terms that, for better or worse, have gained widespread currency since 2001.

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In the Kitchen with Bin Laden

Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–“if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:

Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:

What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.

The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”

So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.

This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.

Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–“if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:

Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:

What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.

The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”

So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.

This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.

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Where’s the Outrage?

Are we serious about defending ourselves from terrorism? The various departments of the executive branch, from the CIA to the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security, have had their lapses, and we have had ample occasion to explore some of those here.

But Congress is a coequal branch, and some of the bizarre shortcomings of the executive branch –for example, the fixation on instituting racial quotas inside our intelligence agencies, first initiated by the Clinton administration — are sustained by constituencies on Capitol Hill.

Last week, Michael Chertoff, the man charged with the awesome responsibility of running the Department of Homeland Security, was testifying  before the House Judiciary Committee. The Washington Times offers a snapshot of the proceedings:

Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, led off his questions to Mr. Chertoff by demanding that the secretary’s staff stand up to be scrutinized. Minutes later, during his own questions, Rep. Melvin Watt, North Carolina Democrat, said the point was to prove that none of the 10 staffers who stood met his definition of diverse.

“You brought 10 staff people with you, all white males. I know this hearing is not about diversity of the staff, but I hope you’ve got more diversity in your staff than you’ve reflected here in the people you’ve brought with you,” Mr. Watt told the secretary.

According to a National Intelligence Estimate issued last July, al Qaeda has significantly reconstituted itself in the lawless borderlands of Pakistan and is working hard to find a way to attack the United States again.

“We assess,” the document warns,

that al Qaeda will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al Qaeda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

We assess that al-Qa’ida’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population.

The only thing more frightening than this assessment is the behavior of Congress in response.

But where’s the outrage? The answer is: there is none. Seven years after 9/11, we’ve seemingly become inured to the clowns now running the circus. 

Are we serious about defending ourselves from terrorism? The various departments of the executive branch, from the CIA to the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security, have had their lapses, and we have had ample occasion to explore some of those here.

But Congress is a coequal branch, and some of the bizarre shortcomings of the executive branch –for example, the fixation on instituting racial quotas inside our intelligence agencies, first initiated by the Clinton administration — are sustained by constituencies on Capitol Hill.

Last week, Michael Chertoff, the man charged with the awesome responsibility of running the Department of Homeland Security, was testifying  before the House Judiciary Committee. The Washington Times offers a snapshot of the proceedings:

Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, led off his questions to Mr. Chertoff by demanding that the secretary’s staff stand up to be scrutinized. Minutes later, during his own questions, Rep. Melvin Watt, North Carolina Democrat, said the point was to prove that none of the 10 staffers who stood met his definition of diverse.

“You brought 10 staff people with you, all white males. I know this hearing is not about diversity of the staff, but I hope you’ve got more diversity in your staff than you’ve reflected here in the people you’ve brought with you,” Mr. Watt told the secretary.

According to a National Intelligence Estimate issued last July, al Qaeda has significantly reconstituted itself in the lawless borderlands of Pakistan and is working hard to find a way to attack the United States again.

“We assess,” the document warns,

that al Qaeda will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al Qaeda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

We assess that al-Qa’ida’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population.

The only thing more frightening than this assessment is the behavior of Congress in response.

But where’s the outrage? The answer is: there is none. Seven years after 9/11, we’ve seemingly become inured to the clowns now running the circus. 

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New York is Not in Mexico

Fred Thompson, responding to a YouTube question posed during the CNN presidential debate last night, pledged to veto any bill containing amnesty for illegal immigrants. “A nation that cannot and will not defend its own borders will not forever remain a sovereign nation,” the candidate said.

The United States has not able to control its southern border. People—some poor, some honest, and some criminal—stream across an artificial boundary that is apparently indefensible. The Department of Homeland Security is building a “virtual fence” on some portions of the border with Mexico, but it isn’t working well. In some places, there is even an actual fence, often seen on Lou Dobbs Tonight with Latin Americans scampering over, under, and through it.

Nonetheless, the Mexican government calls the barrier “medieval” and compares it to the Berlin Wall. We shouldn’t be surprised that our neighbor to the south is so critical of our attempts to control immigration. As George Grayson of the College of William & Mary says, the Mexican elite “speaks with one voice and that is that Mexicans have a God-given right to come to the United States.” This attitude was evident during President Felipe Calderon’s State of the Union Message in September: “I have said that Mexico does not end at the border, that wherever there is a Mexican Mexico is there.”

As the son of an immigrant and the husband of another, I would like to see America extend an open welcome to people who want to move here and who are willing to follow established procedures. Yet favoring freer immigration is not the same as advocating uncontrolled borders and amnesty. Our President, so conscious of the security of the homeland, needs to say this in public to his counterpart in Mexico City:

We are a nation prepared to defend our sovereignty. You have no business telling us what to do about our own border. If I told you how to run your country, you would complain bitterly about interference. You have enough problems to deal with at home without spending your time worrying about ours. And by the way, don’t even think about repeating your claim to San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. There may be Mexicans living in those cities, but they are under our jurisdiction, and, if they’re undocumented, we’re going to deport them. Have a nice day.

Fred Thompson, responding to a YouTube question posed during the CNN presidential debate last night, pledged to veto any bill containing amnesty for illegal immigrants. “A nation that cannot and will not defend its own borders will not forever remain a sovereign nation,” the candidate said.

The United States has not able to control its southern border. People—some poor, some honest, and some criminal—stream across an artificial boundary that is apparently indefensible. The Department of Homeland Security is building a “virtual fence” on some portions of the border with Mexico, but it isn’t working well. In some places, there is even an actual fence, often seen on Lou Dobbs Tonight with Latin Americans scampering over, under, and through it.

Nonetheless, the Mexican government calls the barrier “medieval” and compares it to the Berlin Wall. We shouldn’t be surprised that our neighbor to the south is so critical of our attempts to control immigration. As George Grayson of the College of William & Mary says, the Mexican elite “speaks with one voice and that is that Mexicans have a God-given right to come to the United States.” This attitude was evident during President Felipe Calderon’s State of the Union Message in September: “I have said that Mexico does not end at the border, that wherever there is a Mexican Mexico is there.”

As the son of an immigrant and the husband of another, I would like to see America extend an open welcome to people who want to move here and who are willing to follow established procedures. Yet favoring freer immigration is not the same as advocating uncontrolled borders and amnesty. Our President, so conscious of the security of the homeland, needs to say this in public to his counterpart in Mexico City:

We are a nation prepared to defend our sovereignty. You have no business telling us what to do about our own border. If I told you how to run your country, you would complain bitterly about interference. You have enough problems to deal with at home without spending your time worrying about ours. And by the way, don’t even think about repeating your claim to San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. There may be Mexicans living in those cities, but they are under our jurisdiction, and, if they’re undocumented, we’re going to deport them. Have a nice day.

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Is a Terror “Spectacular” On the Way?

Is our domestic counterterrorism effort failing, and if so why?

We have not suffered an attack since September 11, which is obviously a critical indicator of success. Michael Chertoff, who heads the Department of Homeland Security, told George Stephanopoulos that he has no evidence of an impending attack on the territory of the United States. But news reports last week spoke of a secret warning by his department that al Qaeda is preparing a terror “spectacular” for this summer.

As always, the trouble is that Michael Chertoff, like the rest of us, doesn’t now what he doesn’t know. When it comes to terrorism, we cannot see around the corner. In this regard, there is a significant and little-discussed parallel between the latest plots uncovered in the United Kingdom and the planned attack on Fort Dix in New Jersey, uncovered back in May.

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Is our domestic counterterrorism effort failing, and if so why?

We have not suffered an attack since September 11, which is obviously a critical indicator of success. Michael Chertoff, who heads the Department of Homeland Security, told George Stephanopoulos that he has no evidence of an impending attack on the territory of the United States. But news reports last week spoke of a secret warning by his department that al Qaeda is preparing a terror “spectacular” for this summer.

As always, the trouble is that Michael Chertoff, like the rest of us, doesn’t now what he doesn’t know. When it comes to terrorism, we cannot see around the corner. In this regard, there is a significant and little-discussed parallel between the latest plots uncovered in the United Kingdom and the planned attack on Fort Dix in New Jersey, uncovered back in May.

In both cases, the authorities were not on top of the problem. In New Jersey, the most striking thing about the planned attack was that it was averted not by successful police work but by an alert video-rental clerk. In the United Kingdom, the bombers actually got through.

In London, it was only technical incompetence in bomb-building that kept the plotters from successfully causing mass carnage. In Glasgow, bollards kept a Jeep Cherokee from penetrating the airport building. Hardening the target there proved to be a critical step in saving lives. Still, there was a complete absence of intelligence on the plot. Until they were caught in the act, the main suspects in the case were only dimly on the radar scopes of Scotland Yard.

Why? At this juncture, we are only confined to supposition; hard facts are not yet established. Could one possibility be that these presumably well-informed perpetrators maintained effective operational security, and avoided behavior, like engaging in telephone conversations and sending emails, that was likely to get them caught? And could this have anything to with the steady stream of news reports detailing many, if not all, of the counterterrorism techniques used by the authorities?

Last week, here in the U.S., a federal appeals court reversed a lower-court’s injunction (that had been stayed on appeal) shutting down the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance program. That program permits the interception, without warrants, of telephone and email communications where one party to the communication is located outside the United States and the NSA has a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of al Qaeda or affiliated with al Qaeda.

The positive effects of last week’s reversal are limited, because the NSA program has already been modified and placed under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But the entire episode reminds us once again of the damage that was done by the program’s initial disclosure by the New York Times.

Aspiring terrorists, here and overseas, have been made well aware that they are facing highly sophisticated monitoring technology. They act accordingly. Is that one reason we are not learning about their identities and activities until their bombs are already in place?

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The GOP’s Immigration Meltdown

The debate over immigration reform has once more shown its capacity to fracture the Republican coalition. John McCain, a co-author of last week’s reform bill, recently engaged in a nasty exchange on the Senate floor with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas, who opposed the bill. And bill supporters Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were roundly booed at their respective state conventions.

So far, the response by the Republican faithful to the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration reform proposal is redolent of both the 1976 uproar surrounding the Panama Canal treaty (which would help make Reagan president in 1980) and the current administration’s Dubai ports fiasco. As with the Panama Canal treaty, which roused patriotic sentiment, immigration in general touches on American’s sense of national identity. But the phenomenon of illegal immigration, which this bill was designed to address, strikes closer to the heart of citizens: working and middle-class voters feel that they have been made foreigners in their own localities by the influx of cheap labor. As with the Dubai ports deal, the Bush administration seems to be undermining its own core principles by failing to put security first.

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The debate over immigration reform has once more shown its capacity to fracture the Republican coalition. John McCain, a co-author of last week’s reform bill, recently engaged in a nasty exchange on the Senate floor with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas, who opposed the bill. And bill supporters Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were roundly booed at their respective state conventions.

So far, the response by the Republican faithful to the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration reform proposal is redolent of both the 1976 uproar surrounding the Panama Canal treaty (which would help make Reagan president in 1980) and the current administration’s Dubai ports fiasco. As with the Panama Canal treaty, which roused patriotic sentiment, immigration in general touches on American’s sense of national identity. But the phenomenon of illegal immigration, which this bill was designed to address, strikes closer to the heart of citizens: working and middle-class voters feel that they have been made foreigners in their own localities by the influx of cheap labor. As with the Dubai ports deal, the Bush administration seems to be undermining its own core principles by failing to put security first.

The Washington Post noted in a front-page story that there is little reason to believe that the (deservedly maligned) Department of Homeland Security will be up to the enormous administrative task of implementing the legislation. Similarly, many voters will remember the 1986 immigration reform bill, which provided amnesty for illegal immigrants in exchange for enforcement provisions that never took hold.

McCain will no doubt be hurt by the fallout from the deal and his show of temper in defending it; Mitt Romney, in yet another flip-flop, now claims to oppose the bill. Rudy Giuliani has done little other than question the bill’s security implications. Though immigration is unlikely to boost a second-tier candidate into the top rank, it might provide the opportunity for an outsider like Tom Tancredo (who has already murmured about running) to put together a breakaway campaign based on his opposition to both abortion and illegal immigration. Whatever happens, it is obvious that for the Republican party, the political costs of this deal are going to be high.

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