Friday, December 23

Heck Of A Job

If you have the time, read both parts (here and here) of Susan B. Glasser and Michael Grunwald's WaPo series on the internal and external squabbles surrounding the Department of Homeland Security.

I'm not gonna take the time for a long quote-and-comment; it's 9000 words, and I want to talk about some attendant drama. But a few observations:

• It was Joe Lieberman's idea, the Bush administration was responsible for implementing it, and they put Tom Ridge in charge. I remind you of that just to lessen the shock several dozen paragraphs of FUBAR might engender.

• Indiana governor Mitch "I Don't Look Down On Anybody" Daniels makes an early appearance in his guise as OMB director, managing by insisting that the new department not exceed the combined budgets of all the agencies it subsumed to torpedo the creation a department "policy shop".
White House cybersecurity czar Richard A. Clarke, the counterterrorism chief sidelined by Bush after urging more decisive action against al Qaeda before Sept. 11, blasted Ridge's office with a memo about the new department's design flaws, warning that the failure to include a policy office would leave the secretary helpless to control its independent fiefdoms.

"Creating a significant policy shop is like Bureaucracy 101," said Clarke deputy Roger Cressey. "We never heard anything back."

This set the stage for all the interagency squabbling to follow, which was probably the #1 concern about DHS from its inception. Aren't you glad he's just got Indiana to fuck over now?

• Everybody on the planet knew that Ridge was put there because he was ineffective and had no power base with the administration. Everybody but Tom Ridge. But he certainly was appraised of that quickly enough. Considering all the high-soundin' platitudes about the Global War on Terra of those days, why didn't Ridge quit when the thing proved to be a lightly-regarded PR effort in the eyes of the White House? If Katrina exposed just how little was actually done in the interim (that's a misnomer; we went backwards) this shows that the actual matter of preventing and preparing for future terrorist attacks was considerably less important that making political hay out of the threat was. Like you didn't know that already. Ridge, of course, waited until after the election to resign, something all cabinet secretaries should expect to do anyway. He put party in front of country. If he hadn't, the embarrassment his resignation caused might have served as a public wake-up call.

• Michael Brown's "Can I go home now?" actually gets a backstory: he'd already tendered his resignation before Katrina, apparently. But Brown, another partisan hack playing turf games at a time of Grave National Crisis is in all likelihood even more culpable for FEMA's Katrina response than we imagined from the headlines. Once again, you can't read his story without asking, "Why didn't you resign right away if you thought things were so fucked-up?

Between part one and part two I ran into Kevin Drum's entry about Thursday's article:
One of the worst results of all this is that because George Bush treats terrorism mostly as a handy partisan club to make Democrats look weak and cement his own support with his corporate base, he's managed to convince a lot of liberals that the whole thing is just a game. Unfortunately, this is pretty understandable. At this point, I don't really blame liberals for feeling that terrorism is little more than a Republican bogeyman that's pulled out whenever the president's poll numbers are down. After all, that's pretty much how Republicans treat it.

But it's not. Osama bin Laden really would like to find a way to kill a whole bunch of us, and we really should all be working to keep that from happening. Maybe someday Karl Rove will figure out that that's more important than bringing back the glory days of William McKinley and his 30-year Republican reign.

I hate to bring up Kevin only when he irritates me, because he does some really good work, but Kevin, Stuff It. There were enough liberals concerned about terrorism a couple years back that George W. Bush found considerable support among them for invading Iraq. One of them even shared your name. And there were plenty more who acknowledged the threat but did not buy into the idea that invading Iraq was going to do anything about it. Presumably they, and the people like you who have since changed their minds about it, are still cognizant of the danger of terrorist attack. And no doubt there are lots of people who now believe the threat is relatively minor, and plenty who realize it's been overblown for political purposes, but identifying them exclusively as "liberals" is inexcusable. Suggesting they don't reach your level of political acumen is, given the circumstances, mildly amusing.

So, thank you very much, I'm not gonna be lectured about the real threat of terrorism from someone who imagined, however briefly, that invading Iraq was the way to fight it. The gaseous nature of the threat was clear even then, as was the administration's gamesmanship.

"Bin Laden wants to kill us all" is a Letter to the Editor. It's not a policy argument, and it may not even be much of a factual statement. If bin Laden is still around, and if he controls this SMERSH-like empire, he's certainly well aware that the attacks of a single day drove America to start eating itself. We're doing a pretty good job of killing off Americans all on our own. Of course terrorism is a threat, but it's not the only one we face, and pasting bin Laden's poster over the Kaiser's, Hitler's, Stalin's, and Mao's on the giant Wall of Hate doesn't do a goddam thing to make us any safer. Had we responded to 9/11 with counter-insurgency, interdiction, and the nuts-and-bolts grunt work of identifying and securing possible targets, we'd be a lot better off today. You just read the same article I did. We're not floundering for want of sufficient bin Laden hatred.

1 comment:

Bruce said...

Thanks, Doghouse; great analysis as always. DHS is just another example of Bush nodding and smiling and pretending to govern while taking the Bill of Rights apart brick by brick.