Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

2-3 President in Rio Rancho

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Today President George Bush will speak at Intel Corp., in Rio Rancho, to a certifiably adoring audience.
The main topic has been announced as his plan to make America more competitive in math and science.
The Albuquerque area seems to be chosen often when this president has something to promote. This time, New Mexico is a natural. Last week, U.S. Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman introduced legislation aimed at boosting math and science education.
Our senators say the president took almost everything they recommended and put it in his plan, which gives their legislation tremendous momentum. It also should give it a priority in the budget Bush sends to Congress next week.
President Bush's desire to make math and science a priority comes as a bit of a surprise since he gets pressured strongly from the religious right in fields such as evolution, stem cell research and geological history.
But technological and economic competitiveness in our rapidly changing world is becoming increasingly important, just as it was during the Cold War, when the National Defense Education Act of the late '50s sought to catch us up with the Soviet space program.
The effort was a tremendous success, but nearly all of it has long since expired. An NDEA for the 21st century may be the sort of thing the president has in mind.
Doubtlessly, President Bush also will dwell on national security and terrorism, the only subjects on which his approval ratings remain high. He will continue to refer to himself as a wartime commander in chief, with the power to authorize warrantless wiretapping and other dubious extensions of the Patriot Act.
He justifies these actions by comparing them to those of other presidents who were engaged in declared wars. None of the eight presidents between the end of World War II and the fall of the Iron Curtain maintained they had wartime powers even though we were in the midst of the Cold War.
Is the threat greater now? During the Cold War, our threat was from nuclear missiles. Bomb shelters were designated for everyone in every community. Some people dug their own. School children went through duck-and-cover drills.
And with the arrival of nuclear missiles in Cuba, our threat of annihilation became a distinct possibility.
Yet there were no claims that everything had changed, as we hear now in our post-9/11 world. The terrorists have done their job. We are terrorized and willing to sacrifice some rights to the government in return for assurances that we are more secure.
Certainly the sacrifice is small for most of us. Annoying inconveniences at airports are about it, unless we appear to be Middle Eastern.
Most Americans figure if they are law abiding citizens, they have no worry. Those of us in the news business tend to worry more than most because it usually is newspapers that are some of the first targets of any government crackdown.
I have mentioned before about a fairly recent trip to Germany that included stops in the heartland of the Nazis. Questions about how good people could stand by and let Hitler commit his atrocities were answered by stories of how innocently it started.
Germany was in bad shape following World War I. Instead of being rehabilitated, it was further punished by its neighbors. Hitler came along and instilled some national pride. He promised to crack down on those who were making life difficult for them.
The targets of those crackdowns were people on the margins, so the German majority allowed it to happen and felt safer because of it.
The situation won't get to that point here, but we have overstepped our bounds at times. Roosevelt's internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was one of them.
And now comes news that Halliburton has been awarded a Homeland Security contract to build detention facilities in the event of a national emergency.
FRI, 2-3-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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