By JAMES P. PINKERTON
SPECIAL TO NEWSDAY
Our political word of the day is "tough." And what we need today is a tough Homeland Security Party.
In times of war and danger, when our national security is threatened, toughness is the right response. When confronting killers and invaders, we don't need compassion; we need to fight back with tough measures, including walls, if need be, between us and those who threaten us.
That is, walls as physical barriers -- as well as walls of zero-tolerance border-enforcement officials, walls of anti-missile missiles, and walls against energy imports that weaken us and strengthen our enemies.
And a useful catchphrase is the motto appearing on the great seal of the U.S. Army: "This We'll Defend." Of course, we also have to be smart about defending ourselves, as we seek to allocate scarce government resources to confront different threats. We can question, to put it mildly, whether the ongoing war in Iraq is making us safer.
In addition, when we see scary headlines, such as the one bannered on the front page of Monday's Los Angeles Times -- "Rise in Bribery Tests Integrity of U.S. Border" -- we also can ask whether this is the time for the feds to take their eyes off the border and instead launch a big crackdown on ... Internet gambling.
Which is more important: to be tough on illegal immigration, which, as a recent congressional study tells us, cloaks billions of dollars in narco-trafficking -- and also contains the potential threat of terrorist infiltration -- or to be tough on poker players who don't mind losing money to some offshore computerized program in the Grand Cayman Islands?
To repeat, if the country is threatened, we have to defend ourselves against threats. And politics can play a useful role, by encouraging the two parties to compete to be the pre-eminent Homeland Security Party. Donkeys and elephants would still keep their traditional identity, but the voters would reward them if they beefed up their homeland-security toughness.
What would be the platform of this HSP? Toughening up enforcement against illegal activity, including a ruthless anti-corruption campaign -- that's a no-brainer. Building a wall on the southern border, to establish once and for all that we mean to protect ourselves -- that should be a no-brainer, too. Missile defense against incoming nuclear weapons -- ditto.
That's a good start for an HSP worth voting for, but there's still more to be done. Is it really a good idea to be spending $200 billion a year on imported oil? How can it be good for our national security to be sending money to the likes of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez? And although the United States imports no oil from Iran, our enormous appetite for oil raises the world price to historic highs, and that raises Iran's income to historic highs, too -- and we know what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to buy with all those petrodollars.
So any party serious about earning its credentials as the true HSP has to take the oil issue head-on. Merely lamenting that we are "addicted to oil" isn't good enough; we have to take tough and smart action.
What sort of action? Action such as a tax on imported oil -- a tax big enough to significantly discourage oil imports, a tax big enough to significantly encourage conservation and additional domestic energy production. That means both more oil drilling here at home, as well as subsidizing renewable fuels such as ethanol and solar.
Yes, let's get tough on foreign terrorists and nuke builders by cutting off their financing, including the financing they get, directly or indirectly, from the United States. The platform for the Homeland Security Party, including both border security and energy security, can best be thought of as tough love for our country.
Which leads us to an apt motto for the Homeland Security Party: This we'll defend.
Pinkerton is a columnist for Newsday. Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service