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N.S. B.S.

Monday, Jan. 23, 2006 12:01 AM

An article in the New York Times suggests the Republican strategy for the 2006 'midterm' elections is to portray the secret spy program, authorized by President Bush, as an asset, an example of how Republicans take national security seriously.

Don't buy it, folks.

Don't kneel before Karl Rove, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney and lap up the specious logic and pandering to fears, or how a willingness to torture prisoners, operate clandestine prisons, and spy on American citizens makes for strong, principled leadership.

Are we to believe that we can't fight terrorism without resorting to torture, secret prisons, and warrantless wiretaps? Why are we being told the first and best option is to discard values as if they were obsolete or ill-suited to the task? What is this, a cage fight or the reasoned foreign policy of one of the preeminent and prosperous nations on the planet?

Don't sign off on the judgment of a man whose admission of responsibility was pried out of him by advisors, and then only as a strategy to preserve his legacy for the history books.

Don't accept the word of a president who agrees to language prohibiting cruel, degrading, and inhumane treatment of prisoners, then creates an effective waiver through his signing statement.

Don't forget that this is the same president who spoke of integrity, honesty, and responsibility when he signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. In his remarks, President Bush affirmed, "... this law says to every American: there will not be a different ethical standard for corporate America than the standard that applies to everyone else. The honesty you expect in your small businesses, or in your workplaces, in your community or in your home, will be expected and enforced in every corporate suite in this country."

It doesn't add up. No matter how you slice it, it comes out bologna.

We need both parties to work together on national security. We need to focus on domestic issues such as security in our ports and address vulnerabilities in our nation's infrastructure. We need to do this in an intelligent manner, not add extensive security checks at airports and then introduce programs to let people skip on through for a fee.

We need a system where our ability to respond is not solely dependent on the chance of catching an important intercept.

In other words, we need things that fail safely, not fail badly. We need intelligence, yes, but we also need coordinated response plans that work. Fighting terrorism 'over there' is well and good, but it's a slogan with no teeth when we neglect the domestic front. Football teams don't build championship strategies on the assumption that they can hold the opposition to their side of the 50-yard line; firefighters and police don't have stations only in high-crime areas.

Nor do we give free passes for the police - charged with protecting our communities - to disregard constitutional rights in order to fight crime.

We need our elected leaders to be thinking clearly, and we need them to be accountable according to the long-standing principles of our system of government. We don't need them using 'constitutional authority' as a whitewash for bad judgment; nor should we allow them to hide their failures behind patriotic fervor after-the-fact.

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