TAMPA, FL — “They know better than we do.”
This was the comment of a Republican attendee, surveying the massive security surrounding us at the GOP Convention in Tampa. What began as a mumbled musing about the militarization of an American metropolis settled into a calm self-assurance that, whatever the authorities had chosen to do, that must be the right thing.
“Maybe there’s a threat they haven’t told us about,” he continued. “They can’t tell us everything.” He chuckled at me, expecting I would concur.
“I don’t assume they know better than we do,” I replied. “Perhaps they know less.”
As he squinted at me, he wasn’t angry or disputatious. While I cannot claim to know his exact thoughts, he just seemed confused. It had not occurred to him, apparently, that there is such a thing as too much security.
This column has often made the case that many of our liberal friends simply do not know that there is another side to policy issues. So ensconced are they among like-thinkers and fellow-travelers that they never hear a differing opinion. Some senior, experienced, ostensibly erudite leftists are utterly buffaloed by the demonstrable notion that lower tax rates commonly lead to higher tax revenues, for just one example.
But this interaction with my Republican interlocutor served as a reminder that we have blinkered associates on our side as well, albeit on different issues. For generations, conservatives have been proudly pro-police, strong on defense, and in favor of security. But the time has come to re-think that admirable respect for the rule of law and recognize that not everything done or decided by someone with a badge and a gun is right, or necessary, or even consistent with the principles of a free country. It is also perfectly consistent to favor a strong military while questioning Pentagon policies.
This was alluded to by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who, in his speech to the Convention, averred, “Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well spent.”
To bolster Paul’s point, a military that promoted Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan to the rank of Major and, after Hasan murdered 13 people, saw Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey opine that, “It would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here,” is not one that can claim to have unimpeachable judgment. Further, a Navy “green fleet” that requires alternative fuels costing $26 a gallon is not an expenditure of unquestionable sagacity.
So Republicans who purport to be strong on defense, their strength measured in the number of dollars they wish to fling at such nonsense, are missing the solar-powered boat.
Just as there is a distinction between hard work and effective work, there is no guarantee that spending lots of money means those funds will be wisely deployed. While the GOP Convention went off without incident, that does not mean all these silly-bears were necessary. Similarly, if there is a riot at the DNC in Charlotte, that does not mean, ipso facto, that not enough money was spent.