Whoever ran the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon this morning were not only monsters but also damned fools. By the time you read this we may have a better idea who was responsible for this slaughter, although circumstantial evidence points to the usual suspects. Whoever it is, their lackeys managed to kill perhaps thousands of Americans and destroyed potent symbols of the United States, but if we move to limit our liberties in response to terrorism, we concede the victory to the terrorists.
The bravest response to terrorism would be to rebuild the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and return, as much as possible, to normalcy.
The only people who gain from terrorism are extremists. Time and again we have seen "the hard men" on opposing sides undermine peace efforts, in Northern Ireland, the Mideast, the Balkans, Africa, Asia and elsewhere. All they reap from their grievances is more bodies. All they create is more grievances.
Whoever engineered the attacks can hope to achieve no more than the Japanese achieved in their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 60 years ago. At that time, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto remarked on news of the Japanese "victory", "I fear that we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve." Resolve that war our parents did. There were plenty of jingoistic sentiments expressed in the day following this latest attack on US civilians, demanding retaliation against whoever was behind it.
Whether or not Palestinians had anything to do with the attack, video of their dancing in the streets of Nablus celebrating the destruction (even as Yasser Arafat was expressing his horror) is an indelible image that will only steel US resolve to support Israel and dilute sympathy for the Palestinians' plight.
In the backlash it will be hard for Congress to say no to any bill that George W. Bush, now elevated to "Commander in Chief," professes to protect the United States from terrorism and foreign enemies. However, the highjacking of commercial airliners in suicide attacks shows the folly of thinking that a national missile defense system or beefed-up national security measures would render us safe from attack.
Progressive populists should not let this horror turn us away from challenging the ongoing surrender of global government to multinational corporate interests. But populist arguments should stay distant from violence. Our fights should be in the public forum of ideas and at the ballot box. Tens of thousands of people were expected to come to Washington, D.C., at the end of September to challenge the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank at their fall meeting. Organizers hope to reunite the progressive coalition of environmentalists, community activists and organized labor that helped stop the World Trade Organization in its tracks nearly two years ago in Seattle. The AFL-CIO is supporting the globalization protests and is organizing a Sept. 30 rally (see "Keep Globalization on the Run," page 15).
Government officials in D.C. already were jittery enough to order nine-foot-high chain link fence with razor wire on top to enclose 220 acres, including the White House, to keep protesters at bay. They also have called up area police and National Guard for reinforcements. They persuaded officials of adjoining George Washington University to send its students home and close its Foggy Bottom campus to deny protesters a potential gathering place. But if the meeting and protests go ahead it is crucial that the protests remain peaceful and orderly. Protesters must not give police and government officials the excuse to crack down violently and allow the mainstream media to equate globalization protesters with the killers of Sept. 11.
Phil Gramm's announcement that he will not seek re-election -- the third Senate Republican to pass up a re-election run next year -- is the best proof we have that the GOP concedes it will not regain a Senate majority in 2002.
Republicans head into the next election defending 20 seats while 14 Democratic-held seats are up in what traditionally is a strong year for the party out of the White House.
The R's hoped to be able to concentrate their fire on vulnerable progressive D's like Paul Wellstone in Minnesota, Tom Harkin in Iowa, Max Baucus in Montana and Tim Johnson in South Dakota. Now they need to replace incumbent R's in Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Bush swept the South last fall but after years of Republican ascendancy Democrats have rebounded in several southern states as Republicans who made their careers as segregationist Democrats die out. If a new generation of Democratic candidates can make a case for electing them based on populist bread-and-butter economic issues, a new generation of voters might well reward them at the polls.
Gramm, 59, and Jesse Helms, who also decided to retire at age 79, were similar birds, political polarizers who were roundly loathed by liberals and even moderates. A political neophyte took on Gramm in his last go-round in 1996 and got 44% of the vote. It's possible that Democrats never would have gotten that last 6% to beat Gramm, but let's hope they can figure out a way to appeal to the better angels of Texas' disposition in the open race that Gramm has left us.
The same goes for North Carolina, where Helms always entered the race with 45% of the electorate against him but Democrats could never make up those last few percentage points. Helms, like Gramm, skillfully used white resentment and social wedge issues to maintain majorities (although Gramm at least was more subtle in his racial appeals, usually referring to fighting for "people pulling the wagon." Republican leaders would like to set up Elizabeth Dole to succeed Helms. But North Carolina elected Democrat John Edwards over right-wing Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth in 1998 and it elected moderate Democrat Michael Easley as governor in 2000.
In Texas, Republican leaders would like to set up Rep. Henry Bonilla to succeed Gramm, in an appeal to the growing Mexican-American constituency. But it is feared that a Hispanic name would not survive a contested Republican primary as several white candidates are poised to jump in. The best hope for Texas Democrats may be Ron Kirk, a moderate black who has gained the trust of the business community as Dallas mayor. The complication is that Dan Morales, a conservative former attorney general, plans to run in the Democratic primary, and others also are tempted to make the race.
Strom Thurmond, at 98, also is giving up his Senate seat in South Carolina. Rep. Lindsay Graham is expected to be the Republican candidate in South Carolina but the state elected Democrat Jim Hodges as governor in 1998, so hopes rise.
Gramm won't be missed in the Senate. A mean-spirited opportunist, Gramm has been assisted by government programs ever since he was born in a government hospital, educated by his father's G.I. insurance, put through graduate school by a National Defense Education Act fellowship, and taught economics at Texas A&M University, but he made a name for himself in Congress railing against government programs. (But whenever Congress appropriated money for his district, he made sure he got full credit, whether he had anything to do with the appropriation or not, a practice that critics called "Grammstanding.")
Gramm got his start in the Democratic Party when that was the way to get ahead in politics in Texas. He was elected to Congress in 1978 as a Democrat, then betrayed his mentors in the House Democratic leadership who gave him a coveted seat on the Budget Committee in 1981. He broke a written pledge to support the party's budget, informing the Reagan White House on Democratic budget strategy. Ingratiated with the Republican leadership, Gramm made a virtue of his perfidy and won a Senate seat in 1984. Finally in 1999, Gramm got the chair of the Banking Committee for the 106th Congress, only to lose it when control switched this past spring when Jim Jeffords declared his independence. Gramm apparently has no wish to remain in the minority seat for another Congress. Thus his plans to step down. Good riddance. -- JMC