Yesterday’s attempted terrorist attack on London mass transit — coming just two weeks after a successful terrorist attack killed 50 — has once again raised the question of what the U.S. is doing to protect its mass transit systems.
Rather than address that, however, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have instead tried to spin comments made July 14 by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.
The strategy: Chertoff was misunderstood (by everyone). He really does care about the safety of millions nationwide that use mass transit daily.
Chertoff, you may recall, explained to the Associated Press why mass transit security should take a back seat to aviation security: “A fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people,” he said, evoking 9/11 imagery. Then, he added words that infuriated urban leaders nationwide: “A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people.”
Why would Chertoff say such a thing? We have to assume he was following some larger Republican gameplan on how to spend Homeland Security dollars, for on the same day, the Republican-controlled Senate nixed two amendments to increase mass transit spending. Since the Madrid train bombing last year, Senate Republicans have now stopped five pieces of legislation regarding mass transit spending, including two proposed by Republicans.
But that brings us to the 24-hour news cycle following yesterday’s attack. Seems some in the media wanted to know if now, after yesterday’s attempted London attack, did Chertoff stand by his inane comments?
And wouldn’t you know it, DHS and the White House, as if coordinating, tried to spin what Chertoff said.
DHS spokeswoman Valerie Smith told The Jersey Journal that the secretary understands the need to provide a well-rounded system of security.
“The Department of Homeland Security is concerned about all risks and vulnerabilities and is at work addressing each of them with the unique solution that each requires,” said Smith, noting that part of Chertoff’s comments were not included in the AP report.
Yes, when the boss says something dumb, blame the media.
What was the missing comments? I’m assuming it wasn’t “Just kidding.” But either the Journal doesn’t ask, or Smith doesn’t say, because the article never follows up on the point. All Smith added to the story was a review of the paltry amount that DHS devotes to mass transit security.
But White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan offered a similar, almost coordinated comment at the July 21 press conference.
After offering the same review of DHS’ paltry spending for mass transit security, there was this exchange:
Q: The Secretary of Homeland Security stirred some controversy, I think it was last week, when he said that the risks are greater from an airplane than from mass transit. Has the second attack in London made people reconsider that perspective?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that you ought to look at the full context of his remarks. I think he was talking in the context of the federal responsibility. Aviation security is solely a federal responsibility. The mass transit systems — when you talk about subways and trains and things of that nature, that is a shared responsibility of local, state and federal authorities, and that’s what he was talking about.
Is that what Chertoff said? I don’t think so. McClellan says we didn’t understand the “context” of Chertoff’s comments. But what context do you need? Chertoff makes it clear — an airplane can kill 3,000, a subway can kill 30. Pretty straightforward.
And that’s why Democrats and Republicans have criticized what Chertoff said. “Michael Chertoff is a very smart guy, but I couldn’t disagree more,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, told the AP.
In the wake of yet another terrorist attack on mass transit, the people want answers. Our Republican leadership is giving up spin.
This article first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.>/a>