The city of Tampa was reportedly given $50 million in federal funds to keep people safe, but the overlap and Tower of Babel-type communication among municipal, county, state, and federal authorities made for a right mess.
One senior Republican found former New Hampshire governor and Bush 41 chief of staff John Sununu stranded on the roadside, his ride having been turned back by the all-knowing police presence for violation of some aspect of their Byzantine protocols.
There is some cold, egalitarian comfort to be taken from the fact that even senior public officials are chomped by the mindless maw of the security state. This week, I spoke with former Missouri governor and senator Kit Bond (who, incidentally, assured me he will not agree to be drafted as a replacement for hapless Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, whom Bond agrees should withdraw from the race) and he lamented that he is routinely molested and undressed at America’s airports, and neither congressional waivers nor doctors’ notes about his metal implants spare him these ordeals. Either Bond, the septuagenarian, 40-year public servant, is the most patient sleeper cell operative in history, or the system requires reform.
Compare this with the recent London Olympics. Those of us in attendance at the Games encountered annoyances and security overkill, and questionable calls were certainly made (missiles on rooftops, for example), but the sheer mass of machine guns and fatigues, not to mention the grinning deference to police-state tactics, simply did not exist. How interesting that London, with more closed-circuit cameras than any other city and a populace inured to surveillance, was able to accommodate a much larger event with less kerfuffle than the host city where the party of limited government convened.
But the state of affairs on display in Tampa is not the city’s fault, nor Republicans’, and the security imbroglio at the Democratic convention in North Carolina won’t be that party’s fault, either. It is a cultural problem. America has adopted a safety-first mentality, as Mark Steyn observed in his critique of the decision to shut down Day One of the RNC due to the incoming storm. We must be bolder, Steyn aptly asserts. As to, “They know better than we do,” Americans should not think in these terms, and Republicans least of all. This is, however, a bipartisan conundrum.
President George W. Bush should not have created the Department of Homeland Security, much less given it such a Soviet-sounding name, and Barack Obama should have shut it down, not staffed it with nincompoops like DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano (in this way, the breathtakingly ignorant Napolitano is a disgrace to an office that should not exist).
It is worth noting that, having followed Mitt Romney fairly closely since he ran for Massachusetts governor, advocated his inclusion on the ticket in 2008, and having assured anyone who would listen that he would come back for the win in 2012 (notwithstanding our misbegotten notion in late 2011 that Newt would overcome, in spite of himself), I have heard him say precious little about rolling back the nation’s rapidly expanding security apparatus. This is troubling, but hope springs eternal.
Specifically, one hopes that the impulses of the modern police state will be overcome by a President Romney’s apparent decency and sense of fair play. Further to that fair and decent aspect, a word on the rest of the potential First Family: Mrs. Romney is a gem and, as for their boy-band brace of sons, some of whom I got to speak with this week, they are gentlemen.