Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2001 / 7 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Jules Witcover

Jules Witcover
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Senatorial bravado

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- EXPRESSIONS of good old American macho are filling the air as the country, collectively and individually, decides how to deal with the threat of spreading anthrax infection and possible death from terrorism of whatever source.

One view seems to hold that surely John Wayne, were he alive and a member of Congress, would not have fled the U.S. Capitol upon signs of the scary white powder delivered by mail to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

The leaders of the House of Representatives who decided the better part of valor was to clear out while the place could be examined thoroughly were quickly labeled "wimps" by one New York tabloid newspaper.

Whereupon House members turned on their Senate colleagues whose leaders had decided not to follow suit on their heels. They accused the senators of trying to show them up in the court of public machismo by saying, in effect, that real men don't tuck tail and run at the first indication of trouble.

As subsequent reports of serious infection have demonstrated, however, what is going on is not some kind of manhood test, but rather a challenge not only to the courage of the lawmakers and the nation at large, but also to their good judgment. When a threat of the potential proportions of a man-induced anthrax epidemic presents itself, it would be the height of folly to deal with it by thrusting out the national chest, declaring invulnerability to fear and putting on a show of defiance.

The answer, instead, is to face it squarely and level-headedly, acting rationally and without panic according to the best information available, in terms of both the facts and the informed counsel of the best medical intelligence at hand.

This is what the legislative leaders on both sides of Capitol Hill attempted to do, balancing their professional responsibilities with the perceived threat. As to the matter of setting a proper example for the public, the correct message was simply when in doubt, take all precautions.

If Congress is to be taken to task in the current situation, it deserves more criticism for foot-dragging on many of the antiterrorism proposals that have come before it. After the initial show of bipartisanship and rallying around the president in his declaration of war on terrorism, members of both parties have let their political ideologies show in squabbles over, for example, whether airport baggage screeners should or shouldn't be on the federal payroll.

Similarly, plans for an economic stimulus package have reopened old partisan congressional disputes over tax cuts and federal spending, with each side accusing the other of using the crisis to advance their pre-Sept. 11 agendas, and with the executive branch open to the same accusation.

In applying the machismo yardstick to officialdom's behavior in this crisis, not only Congress but the Bush administration as well has come in for a share of chest-thumping criticism. The decision to divert the president to a safe Nebraska military installation in the first hours after the Sept. 11 attacks foolishly produced some allegations of administration wimpiness, as has the decision since then to keep Vice President Dick Cheney at a safe "undisclosed location" for days at a time.

Such decisions may invite political criticism as "sending the wrong signal" to already nervous Americans, but if the terrorist threat is as real as recent evidence indicates it to be, even John Wayne could be expected to take all reasonable precautions.

What we need now is not putting blinders on or exhibiting false bravado. We need more and better information from our government officials about what those reasonable precautions are, and dependable assurances from these officials, in both Congress and the executive branch, that they are resolutely taking all possible protective measures to meet the threats we face at home.


Comment on JWR contributor Jules Witcover's column by clicking here.

10/22/01: Split decision on gun rights
10/16/01: New York mayor's race: What kind of experience?
10/15/01: New York: Making a comeback
10/11/01: Giuliani: Fly in the election ointment
10/08/01: One or two New Yorks?
10/05/01: Providing your own security
10/01/01: Getting back to 'normal'
09/28/01: Muzzling the Voice Of America
09/26/01: Bush's transformation
09/24/01: Using a tragedy for a federal bailout
09/21/01: A view of tragedy at home from abroad
09/14/01: Script for AlGore's coming-out party
08/31/01: Scandal and privacy in politics
08/24/01: On replacing Helms
08/22/01: Politics takes a summer holiday
08/15/01: The resurfacing of AlGore
08/13/01: You can go home again
08/10/01: Governors' Conference drought
08/08/01: Governors defend their turf
08/06/01: New Bush muscle with congress
08/03/01: America's benign neglect
07/30/01: Where is the fear factor?
07/26/01: Dubya, Nancy Reagan and the Pope
07/23/01: Bush's congressional dilemma
07/19/01: Katharine Graham, giant
07/11/01: Finessing election reform
07/09/01: Listening to, and watching, Ashcroft
07/06/01: New comedian in the House (of Representatives)
06/27/01: Spinning Campaign Finance Reform's latest 'headway'
06/25/01: When Dubya says 'the check is in the mail,' you can believe him
06/22/01: The push on patients' rights
06/20/01: If you can't trust historians, how can you trust history?
06/18/01: World Refugee Day
06/13/01: Remembering 'Hubert'
06/11/01: Ventura faces government shutdown
06/06/01: McCain doth protest too much
06/04/01: Memo to the Bush daughters
05/30/01: Missing in action: Democratic outrage
05/30/01: Honoring World War II vets
05/23/01: Lauding the Nixon pardon
05/21/01: Messin' with McCain
05/18/01: A great movie plot
05/16/01: The level of public sensibility these days
05/14/01: "I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States"

© 2001, TMS