Election-year politics should not be allowed to hurt national security

Posted: Thursday, October 03, 2002

Among the very few positive outcomes of last September's terror attacks was a national resolve, embraced by both major parties, to take bold but reasonable steps to protect the homeland.

United in that resolve, Democrats and Republicans backed plans for a new director of homeland security. Then, agreeing that this director needed muscle to be effective, they agreed in principle to the reorganization of several agencies into a new Department of Homeland Security.

Now, perhaps predictably, election-year politics have begun to dissolve that resolve. And, as usual, there's plenty of blame to go around. This time, though, more is at stake than who will control Congress. Much more. ...

The partisan dispute boiled over late last week, with the president cavalierly suggesting that Senate Democrats were putting special interests ahead of national security, and Majority Leader Tom Daschle staging a melodramatic meltdown on the Senate floor in response.

Democrats seem to fear that giving Bush what he's seeking -- the freedom to hire, fire, move and discipline employees, and to move workers out of unions for national security reasons -- would open the door to broad union-busting. ...

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents Customs Service employees, filed an unfair labor practice charge on Sept. 18 over a work directive involving the government's new terror alert index, which a week earlier had been raised from ''elevated'' to ''high'' risk of a terrorist attack. The union contended that it should have been consulted before the directive was issued so that any questions could be addressed.

Imagine having swift response to a terrorist threat stymied by a meeting of the National Labor Relations Board. Democrats need to yield on this one.

President Bush was wrong to question Senate Democrats' commitment to our security. Daschle overreacted. Both sides need to get past petty politics and back on course to securing the homeland.

-- The Herald, Everett, Wash.

Sept. 30

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