There is little reason to doubt that when the Republicans hold their national convention in New York City at the end of the month, one of the images that will be brought to the forefront of the GOP’s campaign will be President George W. Bush at Ground Zero three days after the September 11th attacks. The sight of the President standing on top of a mangled fire engine, speaking into a bullhorn to the workers gathered around him, became one of the most lasting images of his early presidency.
On that day, Bush promised the Ground Zero workers that the country was there “to make a stand for the good people of New York City.” That impromptu speech, the world would soon find out, was typical Bush: mixed in with his words of solace was the trademark bravado—“the people who knocked down these buildings will hear from all of us soon”—that his supporters love and his critics loathe.
Bush, unfortunately, has failed to make that promise stand for this city. While the GOP uses New York City at the end of the month to try and reconnect itself with 9-11 and reclaim the President’s popular past, the fact is that Bush has given very little back in the way of security to this city since the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Political leaders from Queens this week called on the federal government to give New York City its fair share of anti-terror funds. It is not the first time this demand has been made, but the outrage now comes in the wake of the Department of Homeland Security’s warning that terrorists are targeting several major financial institutions in New York City. The demand for funding also comes after the 9-11 Commission’s report argued, “Homeland Security assistance should be based strictly on an assessment of risks and vulnerabilities.” While the commission put New York City and Washington, D.C. at the top of this list, the Bush Administration obviously disagrees. How else to explain that Wyoming, a state that few would see as a potential target for terrorists, received more funding per person than any state in the country this year? (Vice President Dick Cheney is from Wyoming.)
New York City, on the other hand, ranked a galling 35th in the nation in anti-terror funding per person, according to a report released by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Last year, the city ranked 16th. Congressman Anthony Weiner reported last month that the NYPD and FDNY have seen a whopping drop of $153.2 million in federal funds since the terrorist attacks on 9-11.
It is not just Democrats who have criticized the distribution of anti-terror funds. Last May, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank, noted the disproportionate funding that currently exists between states. “The inequities of the current distribution mechanism demonstrate its serious flaws,” Dr. James Jay Carafano wrote for the foundation. These flaws must be fixed. Issuing warnings that certain cities are being targeted for an attack does not translate into the federal government being tough on terror. Giving these cities adequate funding to protect and prepare themselves does.
Both City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. and Congressman Weiner were right to accuse the President of turning anti-terror funding into pork barrel legislation. Why would Bush seek to aid the cities and states he knows will not vote for him? The President’s speech delivered through a bullhorn three years ago at Ground Zero has proven to be an example of one of the great failures of his nearly four years in office: He has no problems using tough words, but has seldom followed through with substantial action.
The GOP will sell itself as the party that is “tough on terrorism” during its convention here. But as the facts of Bush’s true record on Homeland Security become more apparent, chances are that New Yorkers won’t be buying it.