Soft on terrorism

    Behold what can happen when the plunderers are permitted to roam free. Behold the spectacle of a political party working at cross purposes with itself.

    It was entirely predictable that the tea-partying House Republicans would try to slash the current fiscal year budget by targeting Big Bird and Planned Parenthood and the National Endowment for the Arts and nutritional aid to pregnant women. That’s page one from the GOP playbook.

    But weakening our national security? Making life easier for terrorists? Really, guys? I’d always assumed such moves were off limits, especially since the GOP has long deemed itself to be the true guardian of our national security.

    Ponder this one: In their eagerness to plunder the federal ledger, House Republicans are demanding deep cuts in our nuclear non-proliferation program. That would be the program by which America works to keep nuclear and radioactive materials away from the bad guys who would love nothing more than to decimate an American city.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Does cutting that program strike you as a particularly good idea?  

    The U.S. National Security Strategy, a document released by the White House nine months ago, concluded that “there is no greater threat to the American people than weapons of mass destruction, particularly the danger posed by the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and their proliferation to additional (nations).” Accordingly, President Obama has established an urgent time line: America will take the lead in a global effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. A crucial U.S. player in this effort is the National Nuclear Security Agency, which was created in 2000 by a Republican Senate and a Republican House.

    The 2011 Republican House wants to cut the NNSA’s nonproliferation program by 24 percent.

    Wait a second…In their preparations for tea-party mania, didn’t the 2011 Republican House leaders promise to protect all “security” spending? Yes, they did. So how can they get away with slashing a program that’s vital to our national security?

    Easy. They simply exempted nuclear nonproliferation from their definition of “national security.” The rationale goes something like this: On a flow chart, the NNSA is a subset of the U.S. Department of Energy. And the U. S. Department of Energy is not, strictly speaking, a national security department. Therefore, the NNSA’s work does not involve national security. Therefore, its non-security projects are no more exempt from budget cuts than, say, water projects. (If only Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, were alive today. He would’ve loved this one.)   

    Anyway, John Isaacs, who directs the Council for a Livable World (a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce nuclear danger), put it best the other day: “House Republicans are being penny wise and pound foolish…They are hacking away at the most useful federal program to prevent the gravest threat to the United States, nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists.”

    How ironic it is that so many Republicans spend so much time intimating that Obama is insufficiently concerned about protecting America – yet here they are, seeking to weaken his ambitious nonproliferation program, which is designed to protect America. If the situation were reversed, and Democrats were trying to slash a nonproliferation effort being spearheaded by a Republican president, the GOP would be yelling “Soft on terrorism!” and readying the slogan for endless repetition in the next cycle’s TV and online ads.

    Meanwhile, on a related front, check this one out: House Republicans also want to trim the money that would modernize this nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile…which is particularly weird, given the fact that it was the Senate Republicans, just three months ago, who forged a deal with Obama to commit a lot more money to modernizing this nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Clearly the GOP does not have its act together, as evidenced by this reported remark yesterday, from a senior Republican Senate aide: “The House GOP wasn’t a part of any of the modernization discussions, and there hasn’t been any time to get them up to speed.” (Maybe the Senate GOP can also thwart the House GOP’s bid to undermine the nonproliferation effort.)

    Anyway, this is the kind of thing that happens when fervent House frosh (in this case, tea-partiers who represent roughly 17 percent of the public) are given the keys to the car – with barely a clue how to drive it, and nary a sense of the dangers along the road. Such as the dangers of being soft on terrorism. The least they could do, during their initial joy ride, is to bone up on our security needs and not drive us all over a cliff.


    Quote of the week, courtesy of former Philadelphia Phillies manager and renowned tough guy Dallas Green, whose nine-year-old granddaughter was shot dead at that Arizona shopping center with an assist from our Wild West gun laws:

    “I guess the one thing that I can’t get through my mind, even though I’m a hunter and I love to shoot and I love to have my guns, is that I don’t have a Glock and I don’t have a magazine with 33 bullets in it. That doesn’t make sense for me, to be able to sell those kinds of things. I guess I never thought about it until this happened. What reason is there to have those kinds of guns other than to kill people? I just don’t understand that.”

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal