- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Leading Democrats have served notice: They intend to run to the right of President Bush in the run-up to the 2004elections by assailing him for failing to do enough to protect the homeland against future terrorist attacks.
This would be an obvious political play. After all, the likelihood that there will be additional letting of American blood by terrorists between now and November 2004 perhaps on a scale vastly larger than any seen to date is probably about 100 percent. And there can be no doubt about the electoral potency of insecurity about such vulnerabilities. This fall, Republicans used the failure of a severely wounded war veteran from Georgia to support President Bush's Homeland Security Department to portray him as soft on defense and deny him reelection to the Senate.
The Democrats have a choice, however. They can retaliate for Max Cleland's defeat and position themselves for another round of "gotcha" politics whereby they can blame President Bush for the next disaster.
Alternatively, they can join him in forging what could prove to be the most important bipartisan consensus on national security since the great Democratic Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson died 20 years ago. This would entail the "Loyal Opposition" in Congress joining the executive branch and its new Republican majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill in a mobilization of the American people and federal resources in a heretofore-unprecedented effort to secure our homeland.
Specifically, the public will need to be engaged in a comprehensive civil defense initiative, designed to provide greater collective protection for American communities and to facilitate their evacuation where possible in the wake of attacks with weapons of mass destruction. An accelerated voluntary, if not mandatory, smallpox vaccination program would be prudent.
There will also need to be considerably increased funding allocated to such priorities as: training and equipping of police, fire, emergency and other "first-responders"; port and waterway security; vital cyber, transportation, energy and other physical infrastructure hardening and protection; nuclear, chemical and biological monitoring and response teams; border security; and the prompt deployment of defenses against delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction against which we currently have no protection (namely, ballistic missiles).
If the Democrats are serious about defending the homeland, and not simply scoring political points, they will embrace such measures. So, too, will Republicans in the executive and legislative branches.
Of course, there will not, and need not, be complete agreement on every point and each priority. But a fundamental, bipartisan collaboration enabling these sorts of steps to be taken as swiftly as possible is essential if we are to reduce our present, abiding and intolerable vulnerabilities to future attacks. What is more, only tangible progress in these areas not idle political posturing will keep the two political parties from properly sharing public outrage for failing to take such steps.
Even if the two parties can join forces to make real progress on the foregoing agenda, however, they will face a further, and even more daunting test of their seriousness concerning homeland defense: Will they address the soft underbelly of our nation's vulnerability the complete meltdown of U.S. immigration policies, programs and procedures?
In an outstanding new book titled "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" (Regnery, 2002), syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin details the magnitude of this meltdown. Using specific examples in particular, the means by which the September 11 hijackers were able to enter and operate in this country she provides a comprehensive assessment of what is broken, and what fixes are urgently needed.
Mrs. Malkin also offers chilling evidence of the magnitude of the challenge any effort to take such steps will face from assorted labor, civil rights, academic, legal, alien and ethnic advocacy groups. She demonstrates how their past efforts have: created immigration loopholes exploited by terrorists and common criminals; denied needed funding to law enforcement; impeded the installation of mandated immigrant and other tracking systems; punished INS employees trying to do their job; etc.
Unfortunately, many of these advocacy organizations enjoy great sway within the Democratic Party. Of late, Republicans have also shown themselves increasingly susceptible to pressure from such activists, particularly those in the GOP hoping to compete for votes among the Hispanic, Asian and Muslim communities. Until now, neither party has been prepared unilaterally to risk alienating such swing constituencies; instead, both have taken to pandering to them, with ominous implications for national security.
As a result, a robust and truly bipartisan approach to homeland security offers the only hope of getting the sort of protection we require protection that makes it harder both for destructive attacks in this country to succeed and for those who wish to conduct them to have the opportunity to do so. The largely new leadership of congressional Democrats and Republicans can signal their determination to address this problem, comprehensively, seriously and effectively, by creating a new special committee to wrestle with the immigration underbelly of the nation's defense while collaborating with Mr. Bush's new Homeland Security Department to accelerate progress on all other fronts as swiftly as possible.
The alternative is to wait for the next terrorist-spawned disaster.
At that point, there will surely be plenty of blame to go around. But there will almost certainly also be a shared willingness on all sides to take the sorts of step that concerted, bipartisan action now might make unnecessary.

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