The Magazine

The Homeland Security Two-fer

The smart politics behind Bush's new cabinet agency proposal.

Jun 24, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 40 • By TOD LINDBERG
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Under different circumstances, Congress would have the option of saying, "Forget it." That was the fate of Clintoncare. But this is homeland security we're talking about, and so not only will Congress want to do something for the good of the country out of principle, but also Bush is positioned to inflict grave political damage on a dilatory Congress that isn't doing what's necessary to make people safer. The more people saw of Clintoncare, the less they liked it, and there was a lot to see buried in its details. Plus, an industry-financed television campaign, "Harry and Louise," hammered the point home to the tune of a multi-million dollar ad buy. People have probably already seen about as much detail from the administration as they are likely to. And who is going to finance an ad campaign against the Bush proposal for homeland security?

There was an interesting headline in the Washington Post June 13: "Hill Eyes Shifting FBI, CIA." The story was speculating about a possible effort by congressional leaders to move parts of the two agencies into the Homeland Security Department, a move Bush opposes. But here's the real problem: There is no "Hill," not in the sense of an organized entity that sees through one pair of eyes and speaks with one voice. Instead, there are 535 people with turf to protect and ambitions to advance. Bush just figured out how to set them loose on each other. Homeland security, don't you know.

Contributing editor Tod Lindberg is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and editor of Policy Review.