As Congress returned from Labor Day recess, President Bush found himself in the eye of a political firestorm. With approximately three years left in his presidency, the President is faced with problems of monumental proportions.
On the front burner is the war in Iraq, two Supreme Court nominations, illegal immigration and border security, rising gas prices, and the perceived lack of initial response by some critiques to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area. How the President’s handles the aforementioned issues could largely define his Presidency.
Americans are looking for the straight forward leadership that the President exhibited after September 11th. The reaction to Hurricane Katrina and the initial federal response has been divided along partisan lines. Unlike September 11th, Americans have not rallied around the Commander in Chief.
With regard to Katrina, make no mistake about it, the long knives of the left are out in force and have the President in their sights. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and others on the extreme left are attempting to make the evacuation of New Orleans into a race issue. This is race baiting at its worst and has no place in American politics.
In New Orleans it was the poor blacks and whites who had limited options when it came time to flee the city. By and large, it was those with means — a car or the ability to get an airline ticket — who got to safety. Clearly in some ways all levels of government failed the people of New Orleans.
What is also clear is that the leadership of FEMA and Homeland Security are too constrained by a massive bureaucracy to respond swiftly to a national emergency. In light of the terrorist threat that still confronts this country –alarm bells should be going off in the White House and Congress. What Washington doesn’t need is another congressional investigation or blue ribbon commission. What is needed is someone with the authority to cut through the bureaucracy and direct access to the President.
By design, that is what the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security was set up to do. Rearranging the flow charts won’t get it. What is needed is a strong and decisive leader of the caliber of Rudy Giuliani. Decisive presidential action is required and time is of the essence.
As I mentioned earlier, illegal immigration and border security are two critical legislative issues before Congress this session. We are getting absolutely no cooperation from the Mexican government in stemming the tide of illegals flooding across our border. In August, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency, “Due to a chaotic situation involving illegal aliens smuggling and illegal drug shipments” on his Southern border. Shortly thereafter, Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona followed suit.
Many policy makers realize that border security is homeland security. Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution reads, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against invasion.” It is estimated that over a half million illegal aliens break the law and illegally enter this country every year. By some estimates over ten million illegal immigrants have broken the law with impunity.
If we are truly at war, then our borders must be secure. Currently we have 37,000 American troops in South Korea at the DMZ. The President should consider sending those troops to our Northern and Southern borders to stop the flow of people who are breaking the law and entering our country illegally. Israel has built a wall to secure their country from terrorists. Perhaps the United States should take a page from Israel, put troops on our borders and lessen the risk of a terrorist attack on our homeland.
This leads me to the war in Iraq. Reasonable people can debate the merits of invading Iraq. But the fact is that we have spent considerable American treasure and sacrificed the best and brightest America has to offer in prosecuting this war. Some on both sides of the aisle are calling for us to withdraw our troops. Other policymakers argue that this region of the world is too strategically important for America to withdraw.
Politically, the President has had a bad summer. As outlined here, monumental challenges face this nation. Good policy is good politics, if President Bush takes dramatic action on securing our homeland and defining our mission in Iraq his poll numbers will take care of themselves.