So, anyway, I was perusing the March 6 edition of Time Magazine this morning, and I couldn't believe what jumped out at me on page 30.
It seems that Dick Cheney's son-in-law used his high government position to help al Qaeda.
Well, sort of. But the truth is close enough to be true in political terms. It's a story that's emblematic of the phony security focus of the Bush administration, and it was presented by Time as a sidebar to a cover story on the Republican revolt on the Dubai Ports World deal. It also shows how lame our Congressional party has been in fighting the Republicans for the soul of America.
Follow below for the story, and for a tip to Russ Feingold.
It's never been a secret that the Bush administration has left the homeland utterly unprepared for another terrorist attack. TSA is a joke; even the Republican apologists for the DPW deal had to defend it by admitting that there are much bigger problems with port security; those scenes from New Orleans are as seared in our brains as the Fall of the Towers and scream to the incompetence of the administration to protect us. Chemical plants are one of the scariest lapses in security, second only perhaps to nuclear plants. Why don't we have better security in chemical plants? Time tells part of the answer.
In a story called "It's Do-it-yourself Security," [hidden behind subscription wall] Mark Thompson and Douglas Waller tell the sort of story we seldom hear in detail. And it points up the central weakness in the Bush-as-security-daddy schtick:
[Current security arrangements are] designed to allow the President to be true to two bedrock principles -- being tough on terrorism and resisting federal regulation of private industry. "That leads to a paradox in the security area," says Stephen Flynn, a terrorism expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, "because [security] requires a more assertive federal role."
In mid-2002, it seems, the EPA was given the assignment to secure chemical plants. EPA and the White House Office of Homeland Security (before the Department was created) developed a plan over several months, and in March 2003 a meeting at the Old Executive Office Building was convened to finalize the legislative plan.
Attending the meeting was a new face: Philip Perry, top lawyer for the Office of Management and Budget. In that position Mr. Perry oversaw administration regulatory initiatives. While Mr. Perry hadn't attended any of the earlier meetings on the chemical plant security program, he showed up at the final meeting and killed the program.
"Perry said that any federal legislation to deal with this issue would be dead on arrial on the Hill," recalls [Bob] Bostock [homeland-security adviser at the EPA at the time], "and that the chemical industry was taking voluntary steps that were sufficient."
Who is Philip Perry? Yet another crony, it seems. He's married to Dick Cheney's daughter Liz (the straight one.) So we have the delicious irony that the son-in-law of Mr. Terror Hawk is blocking vital national security to do favors for big corporations.
Mr. Perry offers two defenses to the authors of the article. A spokesperson said that he "was merely relaying a Justice Department decision that DHS, not EPA, should handle the job." Why the program had to be killed, why it wasn't a Justice official who relayed the message, and why they waited till the last minute, all apparently went unaddressed by the flak. Then, of course, Perry himself wouldn't comment, but another flak offered the "nuh-unhhh" defense: "Perry doesn't recall the meeting and Bostock's account 'is not accurate or fair.'" It's always amusing how they can deny aspects of a matter they can't recall.
This wonderful article goes on to recall how the administration shut down Ed Markey's (D-MA) 2003 bill to mandate inspection of airline cargo, even after it was passed in Congress. DHS officials persuaded House-Senate conferees to drop Markey's amendment. Markey's reaction?
"The Bush Administration bends over backwards for industry while turning its back on needed homeland-security safeguards," Markey complains. "It's commerce over common sense."
Congress is again looking at making chemical plant security mandatory, replacing the "voluntary" program that has resulted in only 1100 of the largest 15,000 chemical facilities participating. But even if they succeed, what will the Bush administration do? DHS's current general counsel is -- wait for it -- Philip Perry.
This is a day on which Bill Frist is accusing Russ Feingold of treason for talking about censuring the president for breaking the law and his oath of office. Democrats really need to come off the defensive on the national security issue, and learn to punch back, hard. I suggest a question for Sen. Feingold, and any Democrat who wishes to pick it up:
Why is Dick Cheney's son-in-law working for al Qaeda?