If there was no such thing as a Director of Homeland Security someone would have to invent one.
Actually, of course, there is such a thing as the Director of Homeland Security but we're going to have to invent one anyway. Or create one. Or appoint one. Or something. Because clearly we don't have one.
Tom Ridge must be a stand-up guy and an all-around great American. But, my God, if he hasn't been reduced to something between administration roadkill and the bloody chum that saltwater fisherman put into the water to get the big fish biting.
I'd say put a fork in 'em, he's done. But in the writing biz we're scolded over and over again to avoid cliches, so I won't. But, look, to be honest with you and just between you and me ... put a fork in 'em, he's done!
The last several days have witnessed a hideous food fight of frightening statements. I'd like to blame the administration for this for being so undisciplined and reckless. But it's not just them. It's the media too.
The Vice President says that another terrorist attack is inevitable ... in the next couple years. The FBI Director says that there's no doubt we too will soon have Muslim teenagers and twenty-somethings blowing themselves up for fun and jihad in our major urban centers. Don Rumsfeld said something too. But I don't remember precisely what and I'm on a train so I can't look it up. Anyway, you get the idea.
One of the major reasons for having a Director of Homeland Security was that he was supposed to be the person who we'd listen to to get the scoop on ... well, homeland security. Otherwise we'd be at the mercy of every administration official who decides to put on his groove thing in an interview and rattle off some sizzling quote. And that of course is just the predicament we're in right now. And Tom Ridge gets so little respect that no one even seems to have asked him for his own scary quote.
Terrorism is really scary. And there's probably a lot of reason to be concerned. But are any of these quotes anything new? It doesn't sound like it to me.
Take Vice President Cheney's riff. Another terrorist attack is inevitable? Sometime between tomorrow and three years from now? Don't we know this. It doesn't sound like this is based on anything but logical reasoning and the fact that Cheney is the administration heavy who comes out and says stuff like this.
Or take FBI Director Mueller's statement that we will have suicide bombers here too. Again, is this based on any intelligence information? Or just logical reasoning? Sounds like the latter to me. It happens there, he seems to be reasoning. It's not that hard to do. So eventually they'll do it here too. And there's nothing we can do about it.
I guess that makes a certain amount of sense.
But then isn't it just as inevitable that someone will blow up a building? Or anything else one can think up? (Frankly, I'm not so sure we will see Israel-style suicide bombings in the US, for several reasons. But that's another story.)
My point here is that high administration officials don't have the luxury of going out and brainstorming, thinking up things that could happen and being appropriately pessimistic. Why? Because when these folks say something we assume, logically enough, that we're being told something new. Something that we should pay attention to. You also don't want to have different administration officials saying different things based on what mood they were in when they gave an interview.
Of course, one issue here is that the administration may be intentionally bumping up the terror volume to brush back demands for an investigation into pre-9/11 foul-ups. I'm certain that this is at least some of what's going on. But, I mean, if the White House is going to shamelessly play with our emotions for political gain, can't they at least speak with one voice and exercise a little more message discipline? I mean, is that too much to ask?
The bottom line is that Tom Ridge was supposed to be that person, that single voice. But it hasn't worked out. He's been slapped down, and played with, and ignored so many which ways that it's not even funny. So it's just time for him to take his color-coded alert system, the terrorism smelly-stickers, and even the Garanimals-inspired terrorism mix and match clothes line he was about to announce and put them all in a box and head back to Western Pennsylvania. And after he's gone the President needs to find someone who can get the job done.