Politics & National Security

Has the Tea Party Forgotten About 9-11?

By John Bellinger
Sunday, September 29, 2013, 12:51 PM

As the government lurches towards a likely shutdown on Tuesday, Tea Party Republicans should remember that the United States remains a country at war, not only in Afghanistan, but with al-Qaida and its affiliates around the world.  Tea Party Republicans may not be worried about the political perils of a government shutdown to the Republican Party, but they should be gravely concerned about the risks they are taking with the security of the United States, and all Americans, while the country remains at significant risk of terrorist attack.

Most of the Tea Party members were not in Congress on 9-11 and do not have first-hand experience with its immediate aftermath.  Many may not remember how Democrats tried to blame the Bush Administration for alleged inattentiveness to the al-Qaida threat in the months before 9-11.  I have not forgotten 9-11: I was in the White House Situation Room that day, and I served for seven more years during the Bush Administration while we worked to protect the country from further terrorist attacks.

Tea Party Republicans have said that they are responding to the concerns of their constituents about Obamacare.  This is certainly true (and I have my own doubts about whether the country is ready to swallow all of Obamacare’s complexities), but these members of Congress -- who know or should know more about the national security threats to the United States than their constituents -- have a responsibility to educate their constituents to the risks to the American people of shutting down the government during a time of war.   The American people may not like Obamacare but they still expect the federal government to keep them safe.

Republicans should take no solace in the likelihood that much of DHS, DoD, the FBI, and the intelligence community will remain in place as “essential personnel” during a shutdown.  The rank-and-file who work long and stressful hours protecting the country may technically remain on the job, but they and their leaders (including agency heads) already are having to spend much of their time dealing with the distractions of the coming shutdown.  Do Tea Party Republicans want the leaders of our intelligence and security agencies focused on protecting the nation, or managing the shutdown of their agencies?

In short, if there were another attack against the United States or its facilities around the world (such as an Embassy), Tea Party Republicans and the American people would not be able to blame the Executive branch -- and call for Benghazi-like investigations -- for failing to keep the country safe.  Members of Congress who had forced a government shutdown would themselves be blamed.

The Mission Statement on the Tea Party webpage states that “Our Mission is to bring awareness to any issue which challenges the security, sovereignty or domestic tranquility of our beloved nation….”  Even if the Tea Party’s concerns about Obamacare are legitimate, surely the far greater risk to the “security…of our beloved nation” is to shut down the government and force our national security and homeland security agencies into disarray and confusion during a time of war.