I'm willing to grant the state some expanded policing and surveillance powers as the price for protecting the nation against the threat of terrorism. What's distressing is when the state asks for expanded powers which seem to offer little real payoff or assistance in combatting terrorism. It's even more disappointing when we shy away from this or that reform because it offends some prized interest group or because -- and here's the biggie -- making the change would require the investment of real political capital and standing down entrenched bureaucracies.
This is where the war on terrorism really is being won or lost today. And I'm afraid it's the latter.
This administration is really hardcore in the mountains of Afghanistan. It talks a great game on Iraq. But when it comes to busting some heads or getting a little bloody in the trench warfare of the DC bureaucracy George W. Bush is turning out to be a mix of George McGovern and Alan Alda.
I'm telling ya, you talk to the people who follow this stuff and they're clear that these guys are just doing nothing.
Let's look at today's announcement from John Ashcroft in which the AG outlines a new plan to require ...
"visa holders temporarily entering the United States from [Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Sudan] to be fingerprinted and photographed and to provide contacts in the United States and in their home countries. After 30 days, the visa holders would have to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service about their activities, and again after each year in the United States and when leaving. Violators would be barred from re-entering the United States."
That's the description from the Washington Post.
But wait. The very next sentence reads: "A similar arrangement already exists for all of the five countries except for Syria."
I thought this was something new. We're cracking down on the Syrians?
There's also going to be a slightly less draconian system which will cover a larger group of countries.
But why exactly are we doing this when we're stymied even putting in place a simple database to keep track of where kids on student visas are hanging out?
Oh right, I forgot. The Immigration lobby and the Foreign Student Advisors' lobby are against it.
If you're a conservative and you're gratified that the administration seems unfettered by political correctness in toughening up the nation's defenses, don't be so gratified. Most of this stuff is window-dressing or simply beside the point. Most of the important stuff simply isn't getting done. Taking on the ACLU and John Conyers is child's play. But going head to head with the barons at the FBI, the CIA and Main Justice is just something this administration doesn't have the stomach for.
Earth to Dems: If you want your issue, this is it.