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No Terrorized City Left Behind

06.19.2006 | POLITICS

It takes a special kind of flunky to make you pine for Tom Ridge. Fresh off his unqualified success in New Orleans, Michael Chertoff has done just that. The Department of Homeland Security has decided to cut $124.5 million-about 40 percent-from New York City's federal anti-terrorism funding. In other words, the city's status has just been reduced from orange to yellow. The main reason given was the city didn't pass muster on its counter-terrorism programs. Defunding the programs is apparently some sort of bureaucratic tough love meant to whip us into shape. Call it No Terrorized City Left Behind.

We know what's coming next. You're going to send us a tutor to help bring us up to speed on the national anti-terror exams. Or not. We'll probably have to hire the tutor out of our own pocket. No problem. We'll sell more Snapple. We'll go back to ticketing churchgoers parked at meters on Sundays. We'll institute a pretzel tax, a pooper-scooper tax, and a stand-up comedy tax. How about a tax for just looking at a condo? And if all that doesn't work, say hello to the $12 pack of Newport Lights.

Frankly, we're a little hurt. We thought we had a nice thing going here. What's the matter? The AK-47s at the entrance to the Queens Midtown Tunnel didn't do it for you? Did all those subway stop-and-searches mean nothing? The thousands of surveillance cameras installed in plazas, alleyways, and public bathrooms didn't work for you? What about the metal detectors at the entrance to every courthouse, DMV and government office building? It's not like we're not trying. And how about our cooperation in the tapping of countless private phone lines without a warrant? We even relocated our emergency control office from the World Trade Center. Did those things mean anything at all to you, or was it just a good time?

Seems like we never talk anymore. We're not mind readers. Do you need to see more attacks or fewer? More foiled attempts? More foiled attempts, but with perhaps a few successful attempts sprinkled in? A dirty bomb here and there? More jihadist safe houses in Queens? Please, just tell us what you want. We'll bring back the anthrax scares if we have to. For God's sake, we'll hire Dubai Ports World to run the Fulton Fish Market.

But wait, here comes new White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. His transition from FOX has been seamless, except for the fact that the Bush administration is slightly less pro-Bush than Rupert Murdoch. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Neil Cavuto just missed getting the Treasury job. Rumor has Sean Hannity pinch-hitting for Karl Rove. Should Condoleezza Rice walk, Fred Barnes is always waiting in the wings. Hell, either Beltway Boy will do.

And what a Snow job it was. New York City is not the target it used to be? Not a target? I seem to recall some sort of attack a few years ago, though my memory is a little foggy. Last time we checked, the score was still New York City 2,752, Washington D.C. 189, Shanksville, PA 40. No national monuments? What do you call the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Ground Zero, chopped liver? You want it, we got it: skyscrapers, Starbucks, museums. We've gotten screwed so much, we even have a museum of sex. What's that? You couldn't spare the $124.5 million? Halliburton makes more in one day overcharging for gas. More has been spent covering up Abu-Ghraib and Haditha.

Then comes the coldest Snow job of all. Native sarcasm notwithstanding, we couldn't make this one up. Reportedly, the city was penalized heavily for faxing in the application instead of filing it electronically. Oops. Can we have another chance? Yes, we know-use a number 2 pencil. Put away the 911 Commission Report. Print clearly, and please keep your eyes on your own paper. No copying off Chicago.

Faxes? E-mails? National monuments? Fuggedaboutit! Nice lame duck politics, guys. Did you hear that? That was the sound of the GOP writing off New York for '06 and '08. Up with red state security. Down with blue. The Bush administration has decided to cut and run-from New York.

Go ahead, make our day. Slash the rest of the terrorism budget. Take all the hard core evangelicals, reactionary right-wingers, and Ann Coulter groupies you can find. You'll never gerrymander a 31 percent approval rating into anything approaching a political victory, even with Tom DeLay in the back room cutting the most unseemly deals ever witnessed in a free society. Face it-those filibusters are about to become subpoenas. And you know what that means. Time to crack down on gay marriage.

About the Author
Rich Herschlag is the author of a new book, Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (HCI, 2007). His other books include Lay Low and Don't Make the Big Mistake (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and Women Are From Manhattan, Men Are From Brooklyn (Black Maverick, 2002).

Also an engineer, he runs a consulting business, Turnkey Structural, that specializes in the rehabilitation of residential and commercial buildings. Also a radio commentator, he can be visited at

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