- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Fault lines

Who would have thought that the 2004 presidential election would come down to a colossal error?

Going into the final stretch of one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in our lifetime, any major Election Day effect of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s attack ads against Democratic Sen. John Kerry is “falling by the wayside,” says Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, which tracks politically sensitive words and phrases in newspapers and on television and the Internet.

Instead, his latest index finds, among the top political buzzwords that will be on voters’ minds when they step into polling booths are “colossal error” and “global test” — “the political (psychological) fault lines upon which the presidential race will ultimately be decided.”

“Colossal error” was Mr. Kerry’s description of President Bush’s decision to wage war in Iraq, and “global test” was the Democrat’s description of the bar he would set before committing the United States to pre-emptive strikes, a term widely derided by Mr. Bush and his supporters.

Furthermore, in a turn of events neither ticket had expected, “Mary Cheney” suddenly has emerged as a hot-button issue, given the question of her sexuality and her family’s furor over it being brought up “gratuitously” by Mr. Kerry and his vice-presidential running mate, Sen. John Edwards, in their respective debates.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out another observation by Mr. Payack: “Kerry supporters seem to see ‘liberal’ as a derogatory remark, while those of the president view ‘conservative’ as a badge of honor.”

Safety in guns

There are two ways to look at gun safety, depending on whether you work or live on Capitol Hill.

The more traditional definition of firearms safety is reflected in Republican New York Rep. Amo Houghton’s latest bill, which provides for an income-tax credit for Americans who purchase a safe in which to store their guns.

The credit would amount to 25 percent of the total costs of purchasing, shipping and installing a gun safe in a taxpayer’s residence, with the maximum credit limited to 25 percent of the total costs up to $1,000, or a total credit of $250.

Then there is the other type of gun safety voiced by Democratic Georgia Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., who complains that residents of the nation’s capital — unlike Americans residing in the 50 states — are not granted their constitutional right to protect themselves.

“Only the District of Columbia prohibits a person from having a firearm assembled and loaded at home, for the purpose of self-defense,” he notes. “I believe that that’s wrong.”

(As the bumper sticker warns — and residents of Washington have so rudely discovered on a daily basis — when guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns).

Fear of flying

While Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry is calling for cargo to be inspected on commercial airlines, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat, says more protection is needed for airport perimeters.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finds that airport-perimeter security has not improved appreciably since September 11, 2001. Even worse, federal funds earmarked by Congress for such safety improvements have yet to be delivered to several major airports that are highly vulnerable to unauthorized entry.

More proof is a recent “report card” issued by the Air Line Pilots Association, which gives airport-perimeter security in the United States an overall grade of “D.” Mr. Meeks calls the grade “shameful and unacceptable.”

Congress has established a Federal Aviation Security Capital Fund — $250 million per year — to finance security improvements at U.S. airports. Yet, key airports now identified as having particular needs for “expeditious improvements” include some of the nation’s busiest — New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia International Airport; Newark International Airport in New Jersey; Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport; Baltimore-Washington International Airport; Birmingham International Airport in Alabama; and Lehigh Valley, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh international airports in Pennsylvania.

How might perimeter security be compromised?

“One issue of particular concern is the proliferation of MANPADS — Man-Portable Air Defense Systems — or, in a nutshell, shoulder-launched, anti-aircraft missiles,” Mr. Meeks says.

The GAO reported in May that MANPADS pose a threat to commercial aircraft for several reasons: their wide availability (Uncle Sam estimates that several thousand MANPADS are outside government controls); their low cost, portability and lethality; and their success in attacking and bringing down aircraft — including the U.S. military’s — in other countries.

Fans of this column will enjoy John McCaslin’s new book, “Inside the Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans From Around the Nation’s Capital.” Mr. McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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