Friday, December 03, 2004

Secretaries Day

Today hasn't been a very good one on the Cabinet front. First, President Bush nominated Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police chief, to be the new secretary of homeland security. Bush sent Kerik to Iraq last year to help set up the Baghdad police force, but Kerik left just three and a half months later with the insurgency growing as quickly as ever. His stint as commissioner of the New York Correction Department also was marred by scandal, including the diversion of more than $1 million in rebates on inmate cigarettes bought with city money to a nonprofit group headed by -- you guessed it -- Kerik.

In Kerik's defense, he did an excellent job of cleaning up crime in New York as police chief, and on a personal level, he overcame long odds to succeed. Like the protagonist in a great Horatio Alger "rags-to-riches" story, Kerik transformed himself from a high-
school dropout who grew up without his mother into one of the nation's most influential lawmen. For those accomplishments, he is to be commended. For the country's sake, I hope Kerik dispels all of my concerns about him by turning the Department of Homeland Security into a strong and effective defensive force that does more than call occasional press conferences to change the warning color from yellow to orange and then back again.

By far the most disheartening news today is that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- the man who didn't anticipate the Iraqi insurgency, the man who didn't send enough troops to secure the streets of post-war Iraq, the man who oversaw our nation's military during the embarrassing Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prison scandals -- will not be held accountable for his failures. Instead, inexplicably and unacceptably, Rumsfeld will get to keep his job for a second term. Poor planning and poor performance should not be rewarded under the guise of "staying the course." Even though he won't, Rumsfeld should do the right thing for his country and resign immediately.

Also today, one of the few remaining moderate Republicans on Bush's Cabinet, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, rotated out of the White House's revolving door. In a surreal touch, he seems to have given our enemies an idea in his departure speech: "For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do. We are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."

I appreciate the openness and full disclosure, Tommy, but I think you just made our new homeland security guy's job a little harder.


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