Democrats lead drive for|
increased police spying
Push homeland security in factional move to win elections
Boston cop searches passengers bag on city subway July 26 during Democratic National Convention. Democrats are using homeland defense as a factional football in the election campaign.
BY MARTÍN KOPPEL
AND MICHAEL ITALIE
At their national convention in Boston, Democratic Party politicians made homeland security the central theme in nominating John Kerry as their presidential candidate. From Sen. Hillary Clinton to Kerry himself, they criticized the Bush administration for not doing enough to bolster the ability of the FBI and CIA to carry out domestic spying and to expand the use of the military inside the United States in the name of fighting terrorism.
The Democrats have pushed the national security theme the hardest, in an increasingly factional attempt to inject some enthusiasm into their sagging campaign and gain an edge over the Republicans in the 2004 elections.
I will and I can fight a more effective war on terror than President Bush is, Kerry told a crowd in Philadelphia on July 27.
Kerry called for extending the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. He demanded that we act now, not talk, to implement its proposals for expanded domestic spying operations, released in a July 22 report.
The Democratic contender, who often waves a copy of the 9/11 commissions report during campaign speeches or interviews, criticized Bush for not immediately implementing its recommendations. He said the commissions work should continue another 18 months to monitor whether we are doing enough, fast enough, to strengthen our homeland security.
Kerry made a campaign appearance earlier that day at the U.S. naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, timed to coincide with the recent return of three aircraft carriers and 13,000 sailors from the Navys Summer Pulse global military exercises.
Before a flag-waving Navy crowd and with the USS Wisconsin as a backdrop, Kerry proposed doubling the number of U.S. Special Forces. Accusing the Bush administration of having left U.S. forces overstretched in Iraq and around the world, he said that as president he would expand active-duty troops by 40,000 and add more psychological operations agents to the army. He would also double the number of clandestine CIA agents abroad and establish a cabinet-level director of national intelligence to make U.S. spy operations more effective.
In choreographed appearances leading up to his arrival at the convention in Boston, Kerry was introduced by former military officers as a tested military man who had fought in Vietnam and was ready to become our next commander-in-chief. His campaign announced that 12 retired generals and admirals were endorsing his campaign, including Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who addressed the convention.
At the convention, a string of Democratic Party figuresfrom former presidents James Carter and William Clinton to ex-Vermont governor Howard Deanhighlighted Kerrys credentials as someone who will fight terrorism and make America stronger at home and respected once more in the world, as Sen. Edward Kennedy put it in hailing him as a war hero.
We need to secure our borders, our rail lines, and our ports as well as our chemical and nuclear plants, said Sen. Hillary Clinton in a speech on the opening day of the convention. We need to make sure that homeland security is a priority.
The speeches by a spectrum of Democratic politicians were a reminder that Democratic support for a homeland defense operation goes back to the Clinton administration, which first established a North American command in charge of deploying U.S. troops on U.S. soil.
The increasingly shrill and flag-waving efforts by the Democrats to use the homeland security question as a factional football against the Bush administration take place as it becomes clear that the Kerry candidacy, unable to distinguish itself from the policies of the Republicans in the White House, has not gained much advantage over Bush. Not even the announcement of Sen. John Edwards as running mate has given a bounce to the Kerry campaign.
SEIU head: better off if Kerry loses
Despite the scripted hoopla, the Democratic gala, more of an infomercial than a political convention, has been a bust in TV ratings. The viewing audience on opening night was 10 percent less than it was on the first day of the convention four years ago. In 2000, barely 15 percent of TV households watched the Democratic and Republican conventions.
In face of this dismal picture, the president of the largest AFL-CIO union, Andrew Stern of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said in an interview with the Washington Post that the emperor has no clothes.
Stern said both the Democratic Party and the labor movement are in a deep crisis and devoid of new ideas. It is a hollow party, he said, adding that if John Kerry becomes president, it hurts chances of reforming the Democrats and the union movement, and that both might be better off in the long run if Sen. John F. Kerry loses the election, the Washington Post reported in its July 27 issue.
The union president, a committed Democrat, bitterly complained that Kerry and his party have declined to address what he calls the Wal-Mart economy, the Post said, referring to the unsustainably low wages and short hours of many workers.
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, himself a former president of the SEIU, sought to patch up the official happy face. He replied that Sterns attitude is not justified and hailed the unity and solidarity of Democratic support for Kerry.
Adding to the increasingly coarse and despairing tone of the Democratic campaign, Kerrys wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, attacked the Republicans for un-American traits that are coming into some of our politics. Asked by a reporter what she meant by un-American, she denied using the term and told him to shove it. Hillary Clinton applauded the heiress of the billionaire Heinz family, saying, You go, girl!
And at a literary gathering of liberals on the day the convention opened, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmentalist and son of the late senator, asserted that Bush was put into office by the largest polluters and that regime change is needed because his administrations policies amount to fascism. The crowd cheered raucously.
9/11 report pushes domestic spying
Democratic politicians have been using the report by the 9/11 Commission as ammunition for their campaign around homeland security. The report proposes strengthening the FBI, CIA, immigration cops, and other political police agencies for increased domestic spying and disruption operations, as well as expanding use of the military inside the United States.
The report was presented unanimously by a commission of five Democrats and five Republicans. It was chaired by Republican Thomas Kean, a former governor of New Jersey, and Democrat Lee Hamilton, a former Congressman from Indiana.
Many of the capitalist politicians who testified at the hearings over a period of 16 months argued that because of intelligence failures the Bush administration was unable to prevent the September 2001 attacks. Democrats insisted that the Republican administration was so focused on preparing the U.S.-led assault on Iraq that it was diverted from targeting al-Qaeda, and that a Democratic White House would be more effective in using the political police to fight terrorism.
Bush welcomed the report for identifying even more steps we can take to better defend America.
The report calls for the establishment of a National Counterterrorism Center headed by a National Intelligence Director. Such an intelligence czar, located in the executive office of the president, would help centralize the U.S. police and spy agencies to collaborate more effectively and carry out measures that have largely already been put in motion.
The report proposes more effective screening of people at the border and steps to set standards for the issuance of drivers licenses. It calls for improving the use of government watch lists and no-fly lists, which have been used to bar people from flying without explanation or charges against them.
In criticizing the commissions recommendation for an intelligence czar, acting CIA director John McLaughlin said, The intelligence community of today is not the intelligence community of 9/11. Today, McLaughlin said, according to the July 19 Washington Post, 100 people do nothing but prepare watch lists of potentially dangerous terrorists.
The report also calls for strengthening the use of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) into domestic antiterrorism operations. NORAD, which is responsible for deploying fighter aircraft within the United States and Canada, is now part of the Northern Command, which was established by the Clinton administration.
Boston cops to search subway riders