Chemical Security

CHEMICAL SECURITY….As we all know, 9/11 changed everything. Take chemical plants, for example. Their owners really dislike the idea of being forced to spend money on onerous safeguards against terrorist attacks, but after 9/11 their allies in the Republican Party told them politely but firmly that this attitude would have to change. Protecting America against terrorism was more important than short-term chemical industry profits.

I’m just kidding, of course. As Jon Chait writes today, after the industry’s lobbyists went to work the Republican Party folded like a house of cards and conservative hawks folded right along with them:

One of the few times I’ve seen a conservative even engage the issue of Bush’s inaction on chemical security is in a book called “Bush Country,” a paean to Bush’s wisdom and greatness. The author, John Podhoretz, labels the idea that Bush has fallen short on homeland security a “crazy liberal idea.” He cites a 2003 article I wrote in the New Republic detailing the GOP’s initial cave-in on the chemical plant security bill. Podhoretz was aghast that the bill “would have authorized civil and criminal actions against plant managers and officials who supposedly weren’t doing enough to secure their facilities.”

Why is this bad? Because “such law would turn Americans against each other rather than allow them to focus on the true, external threat.” Our very social fabric would be torn ? brother against brother, chemical plant owner against nonchemical plant owner. Much better to leave the plants unprotected than risk those bitter divisions.

Podhoretz goes on to argue, in a manner revealing of the conservative mind-set, that my critique of the situation “flies in the face of the passionate seriousness with which Bush has addressed the issue of homeland security and the war on terror.” Let me translate: We know Bush is serious about homeland security because he says he is.

Port security? Chemical plant security? Pshaw. It’s an infringement of private enterprise and not really necessary anyway.

Invading Iraq? Bombing Iran? Worth every penny. After all, don’t you know there are al-Qaeda terrorists who might try to target our ports and chemical plants next?