How Republicans Sabotage National Security

Jim_DeMintThe attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, though unsuccessful, was deeply unsettling. It had the hallmarks of every American’s worst nightmare: a terrorist attack targeting home soil organized by al Qaeda and perpetrated on a holiday that Americans (Christian or not) generally celebrate.

The Obama administration launched an investigation to figure out how security failed to flag down Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian man who was already listed in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment and whose own father had warned he had links to extremists. Intelligence intercepted in early November referred to a “Umar Farouk” and a planned attack by a Nigerian in Yemen. The disassociation of US intelligence agencies and some primitive government screening software seem to bare the bulk of the blame. But in typical style, instead of trying to fix the problem, Republican politicians went about creating new ones.

House Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) kept it classy by capitalizing on the thwarted terror attack by sending out a fundraising email, “If you agree that we need a Governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.” Former Vice President Dick Cheney thinks trusting the US civilian courts with trying terrorists is tantamount to treason. I’m not sure what Cheney thinks a military tribunal will get out of Abdulmutallab that a civilian court cannot. Knowledgeable terrorist operatives with valuable intelligence aren’t the ones sent to blow up planes. (To quote National writer, Rob Stengel, “It’s not like al Qaeda tells it’s suicide bombers, oh you are going to die anyway so this is where Osama is.”)

But if you want to talk people who walk the line of treason, let’s talk Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

He had the audacity to say, “Soft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo, these things are not going to appease the terrorists. They’re going to keep coming after us, and we can’t have politics as usual in Washington, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve got right now with airport security.”

Yes, “politics as usual” is “what we’ve got right now with airport security,” because DeMint has been blocking Erroll Southers’ nomination to head of the Transport Security Administration since September. Why would anyone delay the appointment of a man with thirty years of experience in homeland security? Southers clearly possessed the necessary qualifications, but DeMint “feared that Mr. Southers would attempt to grant collective bargaining rights to tens of thousands of the agency’s employees.” The TSA was leaderless during its Christmas Day crisis because DeMint chastised Southers for a policy he never espoused. All the petty delays led Southers to eventually withdraw his nomination so that President Obama can appointment someone – anyone – to take charge.

In a particularly tasteless move last December, the GOP attempted to filibuster the $626 billion Defense Department spending bill, which funds America’s troops and military operations, so they could postpone debate on health care reform! Democrats may be considered “weak” on national security, but unlike Republicans, at least they do not actively weaken it.

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