Just before the start of the summer vacation season, just as people are beginning to overcome their remaining fears of terrorism, Ashcroft and Mueller threw a scare bomb into the American subconscious. It surprised the Department of Homeland Security and just about every law enforcement official across the nation.
If Bush doesn't roll heads over Ashcroft/Mueller's little TV show, it speaks volumes about his ability to be any kind of a leader. This is inexcusable, reckless and just plain screwed in the head.
Washington IntrigueMy new fear is what these goons have planned between John Kerry's victory on November 2nd and his inauguration on January 20th. They'll be lame ducks, and we're going to have to do a freakin' lockdown of Washington when that happens.
The fact that it was John Ashcroft rather than Tom Ridge who issued the latest terror alert underscores the rivalry between Justice and Homeland Security - and highlights the administration's attempt to undermine John Kerry
The real story this week is why Attorney General John Ashcroft held the press conference on the new terror warnings and not Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. An aide to a Republican senator on the Armed Services Committee says, "The divisions between Homeland Security and the Justice Department are as profound as between State and Defense." In a classic case of Washington intrigue, Ridge reportedly leaked word of the upcoming Ashcroft press conference in order to pre-empt it, then went on the morning shows to assure Americans they should go ahead with their summer plans while Ashcroft is saying the end is near.
The two men are rivals for who's in charge, and who gets to protect America. It would be funny if it weren't for the potentially serious consequences. California Rep. Christopher Cox, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, said the "separate public appearances conveyed the impression that the broad and close interagency consultation we expect - and which the law requires - may not have taken place in this case."
You don't have to be ultra-cynical to suspect the timing of Ashcroft's dire pronouncements. Bush is in a jam over Iraq, and the exit strategy is changing the subject, or at least broadening it from Iraq to the wider world of terror, where Bush clings to a narrow lead over Kerry in voter confidence. It's fishy that police departments in the target cities of Los Angeles and New York weren't notified and learned along with the public about the newest vague threats from television. This was hardly breaking news. Six of the seven names Ashcroft revealed as likely terrorists have been known to the FBI for months, some for as long as two and a half years.