Friday, October 01, 2004

America Can't Afford to Be Safe From Terrorists

Once we move away from the jokey stuff, the most stunning statement by Bush last night was:

I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises.

Bush chose the wrong debate to use that line. Was Kerry about incresing welfare payments? Free health care for all? Subways in every city? Some oliberal big government program? No. He was talking about doing very sensible and relatively inexpensive things to prevent catastrophe. The full exchange:

Mr. Kerry Jim, let me tell you exactly what I'll do. And there are a long list of things. First of all, what kind of mixed message does it send when you've got $500 million going over to Iraq to put police officers in the streets of Iraq and the president is cutting the cops program in America? What kind of message does it send to be sending money to open firehouses in Iraq but we're shutting firehouses, who are the first responders here in America? The president hasn't put one nickel - not one nickel - into the effort to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems. That's why they had to close down the subway in New York when the Republican convention was there. We haven't done the work that ought to be done.

The president - 95 percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected. Civilians get onto aircraft and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not X-rayed. Does that make you feel safer in America?

This president thought it was more important to give the wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security. Those aren't my values. I believe in protecting America first. And long before President Bush and I get a tax cut - and that's who gets it - long before we do, I'm going to invest in homeland security and I'm going to make sure we're not cutting cops programs in America and we're fully staffed in our firehouses and that we protect the nuclear and chemical plants.

The president, also unfortunately, gave in to the chemical industry, which didn't want to do some of the things necessary to strengthen our chemical plant exposure. And there's an enormous undone job to protect the loose nuclear materials in the world that are able to get to terrorists. That's a whole other subject.

But I see we still have a little bit more time. Let me just quickly say, at the current pace, the president will not secure the loose material in the Soviet Union, former Soviet Union, for 13 years. I'm going to do it in four years. And we're going to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.

Mr. Lehrer Ninety-second response, Mr. President.

Mr. Bush I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap and - anyway, that's for another debate.

From a tactical perspective, it was a great gaffe. When he tries to offer up something like that in that next debate, Shrum and gang will have a line ready...