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In Wake of London Bombing, Senate Republicans May Take Rail Security Seriously

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Of all people, it was Joe Scarborough who may have said it best.

On the July 7 edition of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, the conservative broadcaster said: “(U)nfortunately, friends, too many of us are not serious about this war on terror.”

The Bush Administration has spent a lot of its “political capital” trying to convince Americans that they have done all they can to make Americans safe. Yet, they and their conservative friends in Congress have nixed spending for port security, border patrol, and protection of chemical and nuclear plants. The President’s last budget failed to deliver on a campaign promise to add 2,000 border agents, and Richard Skinner, the acting inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security says U.S. port security efforts are, at best, weak. Terrorism experts disagree with the administration spin line that “we’re safer.”

And the media — particularly the broadcast media — has bought into the administration spin lines, and gradually replaced stories about terrorism and homeland security with increased coverage of the Runaway Bride, Terri Schiavo, the Michael Jackson trial, and in Chris Matthews’ case, the amazing skill level of Matthews’ imitator Darrell Hammond.

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How serious are we about Homeland Security. Consider this one example:

The Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee voted last month to slash money for rail and transit security grants to state and local government by a third from the $150 million devoted to them this year. As of May, none of the money had been distributed by the Homeland Security Department.

Now, in the wake of the London bombing, Republican senators want to get their eye back on the ball. G. William Hoagland, a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), told CNN on July 8 that the Senate plans to restore the $50 million cut.

Democrats want to up the ante. They haven’t forgotten that Republicans, led by Frist, nixed Amendment 3597 to the FY 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which would have provided $350 million for rail security. Now, they are calling upon their Republican colleagues to approve some of that — Charles Schumer (D-NY) is proposing $200 million for rail security.

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Beyond rail security, the greater question remains: Will conservatives now take seriously our security needs? Or will conservatives continue to ignore not only critics outside the administration, but people like Skinner?

The Bush Administration, and its conservative allies in Congress, talk a good game. They’ve told us that we’re safer than before 9/11. And in spite of the testimony of Skinner and the opinions of terrorism experts, the conservatives have failed to provide necessary funding for everything from port security to border patrol to protection of chemical and nuclear plants.

While it’s true that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily solve it, a little perspective is necessary. All the various amendments proposed by the Democrats added up to roughly $3 billion of spending — or about 27% of the president’s proposed permanent tax cuts. Which is more important for the future of our nation?

It’s time to match actions to words, or as Scarborough put it, to get “serious about this war on terror.”

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This article first appeared on Journalists Against Bush’s B.S. (JABBS)

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About David R. Mark