The Green Papers
The Green Papers

How Two-Party Politics is harming our Homeland Security

Wed 22 May 2002

So, let me get this straight: the Republican leadership in Congress (from what I could glean from a press conference held yesterday [Tuesday 21 May] by GOP House leader-wannabe Tom De Lay [R-Texas])- with, no doubt, the backing of the Bush White House- does not want a.) a new investigation into our homeland security apparatus both before and since September 11th (because of the possible "political games" [and- yes- those there would BE!] in this Midterm Election Year) OR b.) an independent Commission (which would actually help to take the Politics out of such an investigation)... hmmm... what's going on here?

First of all, let's look at the fact that the Republicans, as the generally conservative of the two Major Parties, are the inheritors of a tradition- going all the way back to the first "conservative party" in America, the Federalists- which has supported what, in recent decades, has come to be called the "Imperial Presidency". Historians generally associate the modern "Imperial Presidency" with FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society- these two Presidents known best by their initials being Democrats; but it was a Republican President- Richard Nixon, not a Democrat, who once put those tacky- where not downright silly- uniforms on the White House Guards! One, back then, half-expected the Presidential Limousine to be replaced by a gilded carriage towed by Lippizaner horses!! (or maybe- this being America- it would've been Clydesdales!!!)

No, FDR and LBJ and their fellow Democrats were more the progenitors of the "Imperial Bureaucracy" than an "Imperial Presidency". The illusion that the Dems were creating an "Imperial Presidency" was created by a failure to understand that, in the Democrats' tradition (going all the way back to Jeffersonian Republicanism in counterweight to the Federalists in the earliest days of the Republic), the President is more a "Head of State who is his/her own Prime Minister" than anything else. As long as FDR and LBJ had their huge (at times "veto-proof") Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, they could pretty much govern much like a Prime Minister in a parliamentary democracy ("don't like what we're doing? throw us out at the next election!"); trouble came when each of these Presidents no longer had those huge majorities in Congress (for, so it turns out, we are a Presidential- and not a Parliamentary- Republic after all!)... in FDR's case, a global, total war helped him; in LBJ's case, a much smaller war destroyed him.

The Republicans, meanwhile, are the keepers of a long-time conservative tradition of the President as an "elected King" in which the President-"King", as the Fountainhead of the Federal Republic (or, as some Federalists in the First Congress wished him to be formally called: "His Excellency, the President of the United States of America and the Guarantor and Protector of the Liberties of the Same"), must be protected by his "ministers" from the faintest whiff of immoral taint. Bill Clinton was such an easy target for Republicans re: the Monica Lewinsky and the other scandals plaguing that Administration because, as a Democrat, he was really no better than the chief minister of a quite large bureaucratic State- at least in that Party's own political theology; the reason the Republicans then failed so utterly in really laying a glove on Clinton is that they were so hung up on their own political theology of an "elected King" as President that they plumb forgot that, during most of the 1990s, the vast majority of Americans DIDN'T want such a "King" and didn't all that much mind such a somewhat rumpled "Prime Minister" in the White House: it was a classic case of "not seeing the Forest for the Trees" which transformed a major victory by the GOP in the 1994 Midterm Congressional Elections into the ignominy of that Party no longer having functional control of an essentially still-tied Senate while "jes' barely hangin' on" in the House as we approach the Midterm Congressional Elections 8 years later!

President Clinton survived two terms in the White House, the last three-quarters of which he had the Oppostion in control of his "Parliament", because Americans- for the most part- did not, in the end, at all confuse Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" with a replay of the Puritan Rebellion that eventually led to Regicide and Cromwell. In Clinton's case, there really was no "King" to even bring to the chopping block!

Even for the first several months of his "reign"-- excuse me: Administration, George W. Bush was looked upon- and treated, by many- as something of a usurper, a man whose dynastic "coup" in Florida (where his brother, of course, is Governor) had brought him to the "throne"-- excuse me, again: Oval Office. Then came September 11th... after which Americans were now looking for a "King" instead of a mere "Prime Minister"- just as the Republican Party, as an institution, argued the President to always have to be! With the horrors of that otherwise beautiful early Fall morning in New York City and Washington, D.C. played over and over on our televisions- and with the ever present threat of future major terrorist attack (I mean, is what Vice President Cheney said on this past Sunday's Meet the Press REALLY news?)- Americans, indeed, wanted to see that "Guarantor and Protector of the Liberties of the Same"!

Now we are finding that so guaranteeing and protecting is not an easy job- for either "King" OR "Prime Minister"! We are also finding that we had better get a whole lot better at so guaranteeing and protecting... or ELSE!! Unfortunately, the Administration itself and its Republican minions in Congress are not much helping matters here.

Why is the Republican Party- that is, its President and its leaders in Congress- so opposed to an independent Commission looking into a.) what DID (and, more to the point, did not) fail re: our intelligence-gathering prior to September 11th and b.) how to best make Homeland Security better and more effective- not so much as a "guarantee" (because not everything can be anticipated, even by the finest minds applied to such a large-scale problem as terrorism against Americans at home and abroad) but as, at least, something of a "protection"? They say they worry that this is a "political football" to be bandied about by Democrats in an Election Year. If there is no impeachable "smoking gun" (as I myself do not believe there is, as I pointed out in my 18 May Commentary titled "WHILE AMERICA SLEPT?"), what's the problem here?

I'll tell you what the problem is: the problem is that, for all their complaining about potential political fallout created by the Democrats if a new, larger investigation than that currently being conducted by the Intelligence Committees in Congress were to get underway, their complaints- as one would, naturally, expect of the GOP- are ONLY about Democrats' possibly using the Administration's handling of pre-September 11th scattered intelligence "tidbits" for political purpose. No Republican is going to, of course, really complain about REPUBLICANS attempting to use these very same intelligence "tidbits" for their OWN political gain!

The GOP is clearly hoping that, by holding fast against a fuller, larger-scale investigation into Homeland Security both before and after September 11th (along with the concomitant White House refusal to share the relevant documents [with all due precautions re: that which must remain secret for purposes of national security] with at least some members of Congress- or, presumably, even an independent Commission), Americans will rally around the "elected King" against his detractors. In other words, the Republicans want to be able to well use the cry of "Regicide!" against the Democrats in the upcoming Midterm Election campaign. This, of course, is just as much politicizing September 11th as anything the Democrats might do as the result of an investigation into Homeland Security!

Let's cut the crap and stop playing political games with the lives and fortunes of potential victims of future terrorism here in America! Let's review Homeland Security- both before and after September 11th- thoroughly (and, if an independent Commission is a method to do so while reducing the political gamesmanship this Election Year, then so be it!) Until then, pardon me if I- a resident of the Metro New York/Tri State region that continues to have a huge bull's eye at its core- don't particularly feel so "protected" by my country's "King" and his "ministers"!!

Modified .