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YES! Editorial: Chertoff’s gut feeling just gas

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It happened last Tuesday, a creeping, uneasy feeling in the lower gastrointestinal region of US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. It was a disquietude that, perhaps, someone without Chertoff’s 28 months of tenure protecting the nation from terrorism and natural disasters, might have written off as indigestion or a bad piece of fish.

But instead Chertoff interpreted this “gut feeling,” as he called it, as a harbinger of a “summer of increased risk” for terrorist attacks against the US.

The remarks came during an interview with the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune, which also included gems like: “We could easily be attacked. The intent to attack us remains as strong as it was on September 10, 2001,” and “I do think that obviously we’re mindful that obviously there is al Qaeda in Iraq, there are operatives who are becoming battle-hardened and getting more experience.”

Both of these statements, by the way, contradict the president’s own words. Last August he said to a group at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wis., “This country is safer than it was prior to 9-11.”

Still, Chertoff’s “gut feeling” had no effect on the DHS’ color-coded National Threat Advisory, which remained at yellow, or “elevated” – which it has not strayed below since the system was adopted in March 2002.

But it does come at a curious time in the history of this administration. On the same day Chertoff experienced his gastronomic epiphany, President Bush’s approval rating hit an all-time low of 29 percent. And in the same USA Today/Gallup poll, the amount of respondents who disapproved of his performance – 66 percent – was the same number registered against President Nixon in the week before he resigned from office.

Last week also saw a gathering storm of Republicans lining up against the war in Iraq, including North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole who voiced her desire to withdraw US troops by 2008 on the same day Chertoff spoke of his “gut feeling.”

And Bush’s first appointed Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona testified on July 10 before the US House of Representatives that he was under pressure from the White House to politicize or keep silent about scientific findings on stem cell research, contraception, sex education and second-hand smoke, among other things.

Also on July 10, during a press conference in Brecksville, Ohio, President Bush made a 13-year-old girl cry.

So it occurs to us that the one thing that might help stall this presidential tailspin is the threat, however unsubstantiated or unquantifiable it might be, of domestic terrorism. And because we don’t believe in coincidences, Chertoff’s statements give us a few “gut feelings” of our own.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.

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