Exploited Our FearNot Our Freedom
by Ted Westervelt
Have Republicans been so busy protecting us from our own
government that our own government can't protect us?
In ten years of frenzied partisan activity, Republicans vying
for federal office have taken the strategy of rubbing salt
into one of the oldest wounds we bear. Hundreds of millions
of dollars have been spent by those interested in their candidacies
to stir up the basic fear of intrusive and unaccountable government
that our forefathers revolted against to form this nation.
The effect of hundreds of thousands of radio and television
ads comparing federal government agents to evil characters
like "jack booted thugs", consistent bitter attacks on the
credibility of government employees, and the impeachment of
a President for being untruthful about a sexual affair has
made a real difference. To get their desired effect of using
this fear and distrust to get elected, the millions of hours
of speech smearing every government agency from the ATF to
the Department of Education would have to corrode the way
Americans look at their federal government institutions. This
purely partisan effort to revive the feelings that our founding
fathers arduously (and most would say effectively) dealt with
in the U.S. Constitution has torn at our very ability to protect
When four commercial airliners were hijacked simultaneously
on September 11, It wasn't our freedom that they exploited,
it was the innate fear of our own government that Republicans
carefully nurtured and exacerbated in their cynical, long
term race for political gain. They have eroded our basic ability
to protect ourselves by watering and fertilizing fear and
distrust in the very institutions on which we depend to protect
The current debate on airline security (or lack thereof)
is one great example of the bizarro reality they continue
to propagate at the expense of a basic level of national security
that a nation as great as ours should be able to provide.
The United States of America is the only advanced nation
in the world that does not take responsibility for national
security at commercial airports. We do not employ government
agents under the command and control of our national intelligence
and security forces in a comprehensive effort to secure commercial
airports. It's difficult to imagine a greater example of the
national security implications of this failure than September
Finally, there is the blatant hypocracy on which so much
of Republican anti-government rhetoric is based.
In a recent edition of CNN's "Crossfire" Republican Congressman
John Shadegg reflexively plodded down that tired old anti-government
path. When questioned on why the Republican leadership in
the United States House of Representatives refuses to bring
the airline security bill to the floor for a vote (despite
passing the Senate 100 - 0) he quipped that federal employees
were so unreliable that snowstorms might shut down entire
airports, since they would not have to work.
Last time I checked, the Congressman was protected at work
by a large force of federal employees 24 hours a day, 365
days a year - even in inclement weather. I'm also quite certain
that the President has his own federal security detail that
has performed their duty under the most adverse conditions.
Still, we should give supporters of the current private system
of airport security a chance to redeem themselves:
Should the President and the Republican House Leadership
embrace a plan that would force airlines to hire security
forces composed primarily of minimum wage foreign nationals
to protect them, I think it would be fair to continue with
the same policy in all of our airports.
Should that policy be signed into law, I would venture to
guess that there would be a similar number of empty seats
in the U.S. Capitol as there are on commercial flights today.