Bob Graham and homeland security

Bob Graham and homeland security
: The Washington Post magazine tries to portray presidential candidate Bob Graham as a bit of a Chicken Little regarding homeland security. They paint a picture of a dull, plodding guy who freaks out over the risk to us at home. Of course, this was a man who headed the Intelligence Committee; he knows things we don’t; he could have reason to freak out; so could we.

He supported the first Gulf War, and only opposed the second one because he had a long list of countries he believed were more dangerous than Iraq, and didn’t want to jack up the risk of terrorism for a low-priority target. He hints that he could support military action against known terrorists — al Qaeda in Yemen, Hezbollah in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, and even Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza. His message is simple: There are many people with the ability and desire to kill Americans, so we’d better kill them first. “We’ve taken the pressure off al Qaeda,” he complains. “We haven’t done anything about Hezbollah. We need to take the fight to the terrorists.”

In fact, few people who have followed Graham’s career — and few people who have seen the same classified material that he has — think politics has much to do with his preachings. They say Bob Graham is no Jack Kennedy — and the threat of terrorism is no made-up missile gap. “The thing is, he’s a serious man, not a showboat, and he’s absolutely right to be concerned,” says Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican who worked closely with Graham on the intelligence committee.

House intelligence committee Chairman Porter Goss of Florida, another Republican, says he can’t understand why Graham’s dire warnings haven’t gotten more attention: “Bob Graham is not a grandstander. He’s one of the most responsible people I know. He’s sounding the alarm, loud and clear, and no one seems to be listening.”

In this edgy era of duct tape, sleeper cells and Cipro, the alternative to the opportunist-demagogue theory of Bob Graham’s transformation is much more disturbing: Maybe the former Senate intelligence chairman is genuinely convinced that something awful is going to happen.

“Bob is a responsible guy; if he says something, it’s true,” says Buddy Shorstein, his former chief of staff and one of his best friends. “I’ll tell you, that’s what scares the hell out of me.” …

I tell people: As you go about your day, look at all the vulnerabilities in your community, your workplace, your home,” he says. “Drive under a bridge. Walk into a building . . . My point is it’s impossible to secure our homeland without doing away with our liberties.”

That’s the cheery message Graham has been sharing with his friends. He’s encouraged some of them to read The Age of Sacred Terror, a frightening book about the rise of militant Islam. “He’s got me scared for my children and grandchildren,” says his neighbor and former campaign manager Aaron Podhurst. Arva Moore Parks, a Miami historian and a close friend of the Grahams, says she’s never seen Bob so worried. “I wonder: What’s got him so frightened? What does he know that I don’t know?”

If, God forbid, we suffer another terrible attack, the entire game called the presidential race will change again. The Demo doves will fade away. The hawks will fly.

  • button

    The thing is: as I go about my ordinary daily activities, like visiting the local supermarket, I observe many people all wrapped up in their own little worlds. It used to be they were just listening to a walkman. Now, there’s much more of this, like many people are engaged in conversations on their cell phones, discussing the relative qualities of the different varieties of lettuce in the produce section with their mates at home.
    For a short while before 9/11, we experienced an unusual spate of completely ‘covered’ women shopping here. Not just a headscarf, but the ‘works.’ They disappeared very quickly after 9/11 and left us wondering if they were the mates of those connected to this event, or perhaps, they decided that complete cover was too conspicuous and decided to blend in instead. Or maybe they went back home to wherever they came from.
    One has to wonder how observant our population is willing to be or capable of being. It’s my belief that our safety largely depends on how alert our people are willing to be.
    [I live in NJ near Paterson which is an ethnic Arab-American neighborhood– they are not ‘separatists.’ Jersey City is further south, and they seem to get infatuated with crackpots down there. Not so in Paterson where the leaders of the community are mostly its businessmen.]

  • Pyecraft

    The last Democratic convention was a brute of an event, but the next one promises to exceed in ugliness. The worst of it wasn’t bent Bill striding down a corridor like some weird, phalitic gladiator. Nor his pal Al, who was nearly buckled by a sickening attempt to enwrap his suddenly overgrown Ms.
    With Bill’s aversion to walking any straight line for longer than absolutely necessary, and big Al not naturally inclined to risk injury, obviously neither had rehearsed at all.
    For me, the real party-piece came as Gore got carried away, way too far and began to rant about being all things to all Americans; with “The poor construction workers out in the cold” coming as a side-splitting climax.
    And that was against the then-Bush! The now-Bush must be damn near unbeatable because the 40% who actually get out there and vote, will have a straight choice, a hawk or another squawk.
    Your boys better start rehearsing how to fly and quick.

  • I didn’t see the debate, but most of the Dems seem to have it backwards. They need to show that they take homeland defense seriously (as Graham has done) and then go after Bush on domestic Issues.
    Aside from Graham, most of them seem to be going after Bush on the war and ignoring his domestic blunders (aside from carping about the tax cut, but you can’t expect to mobilize voters by promising to keep taxes up). Being critical of a popular foreign policy and ignoring his domestic issue weakness is not a winning formula.
    The gate is open, the drawbridge is down, and the dems seem to be assulting the walls anyway. Thats no way to take the castle.

  • Gary Utter

    If the most important thing you draw from Bob Grahams concerns is that the Democrats don’t stand a chance in the next election, you’re short sighted.
    MAYBE the militant Islamists have learned thier lesson, and they won’t screw with the US again. But maybe they haven’t.
    If we get one more big attack, or worse, a series of small ones, we’re going to take off the gloves, and Hell will come to Arabia.
    We weren’t READY for a war on 9/12/2001. Now we ARE ready for war, and we will be ready for a long long time.
    Another big attack and America will be crying for blood.
    When 90%+ of the American people are calling for Death To Ragheads, you better HOPE we don’t have a President who governs by polls.

  • Brant

    Sen. Graham had an excellent reputation as Governor of Florida, and he has pretty broad support, down here. Despite his known personal quirks, I think that he is the only really interesting Democratic candidate. I especially like the fact that he’s more hawkish than Bush on terrorism.