- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

Heading for the hills at the first hint of trouble is not the hallmark of the kind of leader America needs at this defining moment in her history. But that was exactly what Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert suggested yesterday. As news spread of the presence of anthrax on Capitol Hill and the exposure of some congressional aides, Mr. Lott called for a recess "as soon as we can get our work done." Mr. Hastert made a similar pitch for getting out of town while the getting is good. And then the House shut down for the rest of the week.
This from the ranking Republicans in Congress, whose job it is to provide an example not merely for the members of their own party, but also for America. It was up to the Democrats to step up and do the right thing. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who had the most reason to be fearful, given that it was his office that received the anthrax mail, said that "leaving town is no longer the panacea" given that terrorists might strike anywhere, any time. Leaving Washington "assumes it's less dangerous somewhere else." And more to the point, the majority leader added that "What we have to do is not run away from these problems, but address them."
Congressional leaders have an obligation to face up to crisis and possible danger, even if that entails personal risk. It comes with the job. It's one thing for an ordinary citizen to cut and run out of concern for his or her personal safety; but for America's chief elected officials, such as Messrs. Lott and Hastert, such behavior is not acceptable. It is a symbol of weakness at a time when strength is vital; an admission of terror at a time when such an acknowledgement plays into the hands of those who perpetrate terrorism proving these loathsome tactics are sufficient to beat softer, if more "civilized," peoples into submission.
Mr. Daschle's remarks and his steady delivery were exactly the right response to these latest attempts to instill panic in the American people. We are, we're told over and over, at war. We expect all our leaders to act as if they believe it. If our enemies see our leaders running away at the first sound of the guns, it's all over but the formalities. Osama bin Laden and his ilk must see steel and a terrible resolve not lip-trembling temporizing if we are to win this war.
Two Republicans reacted properly to this week's anthrax attacks. Said Sen. Rick Santorum: "We want to be here as long as it takes to do the things to respond, to help the president fight terrorism, to fight the battle overseas and to get this economy turned around. We are not moved one iota by anything that's happened here in our mission to do just that." Sen. John McCain, who knows a thing or two about dealing with thugs, chided the Chicken Littles with the observation that adjourning Congress would be "an outright admission of surrender."
Exactly so. Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert, and others who may be tempted to hurry home to pull a blanket over their heads, should buck up and remember who they are and more importantly, where they are. America expects nothing less.

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