- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 29, 2002

Little did President Bush know that when he chastised Senate Democrats Monday for failing to pass legislation creating a new federal Department of Homeland Security, he would trigger a mini-temper tantrum by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
On Monday, the president was speaking at a New Jersey rally in support of Senate candidate Doug Forrester, who is running against Mr. Daschle's close political ally, the unethical incumbent Sen. Robert Torricelli. Mr. Bush reiterated his objection to a provision in the Senate homeland security bill, added at the insistence of Democrats led by Sen. Joseph Lieberman as well as organized labor, which would strip him of authority to exempt federal agencies from union control if the president concludes that such control would interfere with their "primary function of intelligence, counterintelligence or national security work." Every president since Jimmy Carter has had such authority.
Clearly referring to this issue and his related concern that, if such a provision were enacted into law, it would take away future presidents' ability to rapidly reassign employees of the new Homeland Security Department in the event of a terrorism-related emergency Mr. Bush made the following statement: "On our borders, we've got three different departments dealing with our border security. We've got the INS and the Border Control and the Customs, all full of fine people, staffed by really great Americans, all working hard to make sure that border security is a part of the homeland security. Except, in cases now, they've got different uniforms, different cultures, different styles, perhaps different strategies, and for the sake of the country, I need to have the flexibility to meld these organizations together."
Mr. Bush added: "And my message to the Senate is: You need to worry less about special interest in Washington and more about the security of the American people." In other words, Mr. Bush was saying that, since they are putting the interests of labor unions like the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union ahead of the president's ability to manage a critical security-related department in the event of an emergency, the Democrats' priorities are badly skewed. In our view, the president is absolutely right on this issue, and would be derelict in his duty if he failed to point out the serious flaws in the Senate bill, as he did in the New Jersey speech quoted above.
But the last thing Mr. Daschle seems to want is a serious debate on the merits of the issue. Instead, he's decided that there is political advantage to be gained by pretending that Mr. Bush had somehow sought to impugn the Democrats' patriotism. So, on Wednesday, he decided in essence to throw a temper tantrum on the Senate floor. "He ought to apologize to the American people," Mr. Daschle declared, his voice quavering with emotion. Terming Mr. Bush's remarks "truly outrageous and over the top," Mr. Daschle tore off his glasses and demanded that Mr. Bush say he was sorry. "We ought not politicize the rhetoric about life and death," the majority leader said. Then, with Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a World War II veteran sitting behind him for effect, Mr. Daschle added: "You tell those who fought in Vietnam and World War II they are not interested in the security of the American people." Maryland Democratic Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski asserted that Mr. Bush had shown disdain for the work of loyal federal employees, while Mr. Lieberman (whose insistence on keeping the flawed labor language in the bill has become the No. 1 impediment to creating a new homeland security department) defended Mr. Daschle's outburst, and mistakenly suggested that Mr. Bush had provoked it by questioning the Democrats' patriotism.
While Mr. Daschle's minions were twisting the president's remarks for political advantage, a coalition spearheaded by Sens. Zell Miller, Democrat of Georgia and Phil Gramm, Republican of Texas, has continued to work on the Senate floor to reform Mr. Lieberman's bill by substituting alternative language that would restore the president's authority to circumvent flawed civil service laws when necessary for national security purposes.
In particular, Mr. Gramm, who is in the final weeks of a distinguished 18-year Senate career, has been peppering his colleagues with examples of the seriously flawed civil service system status quo, which Messrs. Daschle, Lieberman et al. want to perpetuate and Mr. Bush insists on the authority to override. Mr. Gramm, for example, noted that under a non-compromise compromise measure embraced by the Democratic leadership late last week, Mr. Bush would lose his authority to override an existing labor agreement that bars the prolonged deployment of Border Patrol agents in locations lacking dry cleaners and other amenities. That, and not Mr. Daschle's phony issue of patriotism impugned, is an example of what has really been dividing the two sides on homeland security.


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