GOP Must Maintain Heat on Homeland Security

Tuesday, 05 Jan 2010 05:02 PM

By Andrea Tantaros

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The Obama administration has been fiercely on the defensive since the Christmas Day bomber's botched attempt to blow up an airplane with his explosives-covered thighs. The administration is operating in campaign mode — issuing statements, messaging through press releases and reactively hitting the airwaves while the president birdies and bogeys his way to the bottom of things.

The administration has also been trying to deflect and shift blame — a notorious campaign move — by hammering the GOP for playing politics in the hopes that it will scare off discord. But blaming former President George W. Bush will only make the Obama administration appear devoid of answers.

As Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., went after President Obama for his silence in the days that followed the attack, Democrats were pointing out that Bush had waited as long, if not longer, after the 2001 shoe bombing. As though that's supposed to comfort anyone now.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was busy warning Washington against politicizing the attack. "This should not be a tug of war between the two political parties," he said.

Translation: We screwed up. Stop pointing it out. Please.

Amazingly, in the breath right after they pleaded for Republicans to stop politicizing, Hill Democrats extended their fingers toward Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for blocking Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration.

If politicization is good for the donkey, it's good for the elephant.

And are congressional Democrats really arguing that one bureaucrat in Washington would have stopped this potential tragedy?

But the bigger problem here is the feeble complaint about "politicization." What is wrong with making something a political issue when it demands and deserves the attention of the American people?

If by "politicize" Democrats mean they take issue with the GOP demanding answers and investigations and criticizing the administration's ignorant response ("the system worked" during this attack by an "isolated extremist" so we should "be confident"), then by all means, Republicans, politicize away.

We need to hear from the administration, not that it's going to do better, but specifically how.

This is where the GOP comes in. Republicans should not be sheepish, not in the least, about continuing to press their case. They should push Democrats as vigorously as possible.

Not only because it's politically advantageous, but because it's good for America.

And rather than simply targeting the left's incessant downplaying of this very serious war against hateful extremists, the GOP has to bring particulars to the table. The GOP must outline what the country must do immediately to prevent another incident. It doesn't even have to wait for Obama's two reviews to finish; we know enough about this near-miss already.

There are plenty of constructive proposals to choose from.

In a recent article, James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation cited key lessons and outlined solutions to make us safer, such as secondary screenings and strengthening and revising provisions of the Patriot Act.

He argues, "In the case of [Umar Farouk] Abdulmutallab, his visa probably should never have been awarded or at least revoked," stating that the Homeland Security Department should have spearheaded policies for the State Department, which manages the consular office in charge of these types of issues. Homeland Security has no such policy in place.

And the Homeland Security Department is supposed to have a visa security officer program in which security officials work side by side with consular officers, managing the issuance of visas and conducting interviews before visas are issued.

Carafano also points out that Congress requires the Transportation Security Administration to leave screening in the hands of the airlines, which do not have access to the comprehensive U.S. terrorist databases. "They are limited to the 'no fly' list. These are leadership problems. They have to be addressed," he insists.

The GOP should also get squarely behind other preventive measures, such as behavioral or terrorist profiling in airports, and reiterate its opposition to the president's decision to close Gitmo and send prisoners back to Yemen and other countries where they are likely to reenter radicalism.

This is the first time since 9/11 that Democrats have sole custody of the homeland security issue. And so far, thanks to their unwillingness to take a hard line against our enemies, Americans have been given good reason to be very nervous — especially on the heels of the Fort Hood massacre.

Muslim extremists would love nothing more than to blow up an Israeli plane, but El Al, the national airline of Israel, would never let it happen. Israel's ability to utilize every possible mechanism for preemptively preventing attacks stems from the collective consensus of their country that the safety of its citizens is priority No. 1.

Until both political parties in the U.S. can agree that we are at war with fanatics who seek to destroy us and prioritize the lives of Americans above the rights of terrorists, Republicans must play tug of war on terrorism — clearly, frequently and effectively.

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