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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

One of the most frustrating mistakes the Kerry campaign made last year was its failure to hammer home the fact that when it comes to keeping American safe the old-fashioned way -- by fortifying bridges, airports, chemical factories, etc -- President Bush has left no corporate ally or rich person behind. Tightening safety requirements for these sorts of assets isn't sexy (you don't get to wear a pretty flight suit and land a plane on the front yard of the power company, for example). And it can be costly -- in terms of requiring both tax dollars (gasp!) and regulations on corporations. Not George Bush's idea of fun.

Kerry did sometimes bring these things up. As an example, consider the first debate. Jim Lehrer asked Kerry what he would do to improve homeland security. Here's an excerpt from Kerry's reply (full transcript here)

The president hasn't put one nickel, not one nickel into the effort to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems. That's why they had to close down the subway in New York when the Republican Convention was there. We hadn't done the work that ought to be done.

The president -- 95 percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected. Civilians get onto aircraft, and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not X- rayed.

Does that make you feel safer in America?
The president also unfortunately gave in to the chemical industry, which didn't want to do some of the things necessary to strengthen our chemical plant exposure.

And there's an enormous undone job to protect the loose nuclear materials in the world that are able to get to terrorists.

What was George Bush's response? That no price is too high, no burden too heavy to protect Americans? Not our President:

I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap. Anyway, that's for another debate.

To paraphrase Karl Rove, I guess no more needs to be said about the motives of George W. Bush.

Bush went on to claim that he was doing plenty, but he didn't address the list of issues Kerry raised. And Kerry really didn't press him on this issue much for the rest of the debate. He ought to have made George Bush eat his words for saying that a "tax gap" is more important than keeping Americans safe.

Anyway, all of this is by way of introduction to an editorial in today's NYTimes. The editorial concerns a bridge here in DC that is apparently highly vulnerable to truck-bomb attacks. The problem is, this bridge frequently carries trains carrying highly lethal chemicals (e.g., chlorine). A well-timed bomb could kill hundreds of thousands of people in DC, including anyone in the Capitol or the Supreme Court. The DC city council passed a law barring trains with hazardous material from using this bridge, but the law has (not surprisingly) been enjoined by Federal courts at the request of railway interests, on the grounds that the law hinders interstate commerce. The Bush Administration has refused to press for a Federal law to address this problem. The Times editorial says that

There is a simple solution. Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, has introduced a bill aimed at keeping hazardous rail shipments out of areas like downtown Washington, where the terrorist threat is greatest. Any member of Congress who is not already supporting Mr. Biden's bill should take a short walk to Second Street and E Street SW for a reminder of why it is urgently needed.

Go Joe.

If you're interested in similar issues, you should definitely check out the Times's series of editorials, "An Insecure Nation".


Blogger strategery4 said...

Agree with you 100% that this was a real missed opportunity, but thinking about an effective Kerry campaing is kind of like the hypothetical "if a frog had wings . . ." More seriously, the Kerry team did face the conundrum that when they talked about terrorism they were focussing on the issue where Bush had the most support (except when things in Iraq were going really badly) -- so there was a damned if they did, damned if they didn't aspect to that issue.

7/06/2005 1:51 PM  

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