Skip to comments.Democratic Hopefuls Eye Homeland Sec.
Posted on 02/14/2003 4:59:15 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats remained silent for months as the United States waged war in Afghanistan, wary of challenging a popular commander in chief. But if terrorists strike again on U.S. soil, many of President Bush's rivals have the standing to question whether his administration has done enough to protect the nation.
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman pushed for creation of a Homeland Security agency months before Bush embraced the idea and proposed establishment of a department with a Cabinet-level secretary. Florida's Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has repeatedly argued that the administration is focused too much on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and not enough on al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations. Former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart has served on independent commissions that have warned about weaknesses in U.S. security.
Few Democrats would be so presumptuous as to say, "I told you so," especially if chemical clouds are floating over American cities, but as the election draws near, Bush's rivals will be less reticent about criticizing him.
"It's the right issue for Democrats," said Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist think tank. "This administration is not giving the kind of priority to homeland security that we need. This is No. 1 on the American people's list of concerns."
The Bush administration would argue that the previous Congress, in particular the Democrat-controlled Senate, allowed a fight over a labor provision to delay creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The White House also would make the case that lawmakers, including many of those Democratic candidates, have been slow to provide the money for state and local governments to combat terrorism.
"It's just unfortunate that the president proposed a budget that had a 1,000 percent increase for first responders and the Congress has still failed to appropriate those funds," said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.
Still, Democrats have sought to highlight the issue.
Sen. John Kerry, a three-term senator and longtime member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has worked on legislation to beef up security at airports and ocean ports. Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt was an early proponent of creating a domestic security agency.
North Carolina's freshman Sen. John Edwards has introduced several bills on homeland security, including one calling for creation of a homeland intelligence agency.
Lieberman, in a speech he was delivering Friday, called for establishment of a homeland security academy like a domestic West Point and suggested creation of a 24-hour operations center in each state to provide communications links between local and state officials and the federal government.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has said: "I don't think the president is doing what he should be doing on homeland security. I see his attention wandering, so obsessed with Iraq, losing our focus on al-Qaida, and homeland security is an important piece of that."
Campaign watchers suggest that the Democratic candidates will not be hesitant to speak out. "We've had all these terrifying alerts, getting on to two years now," Marshall said. "People will want to know why, if we have not built up our defenses as we should have."
I am convinced that they KNOW we are going to get another attack. No amount of money is going to stop it.
My only hope is that when another attack comes, they are smack dab in the middle of it.
Of course, they don't want to do enough either, but they're hoping no one notices that, and the mainstream media certainly aren't reporting it.
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