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.