August 23, 2003

At a desk, Ridge sits...

I'm reading a very interesting book, AFTER: Rebuilding and Defending America in the September 12 Era, by Steven Brill. It's a look at how American responded in the year after September 11. It follows several victims and their families, and also follows various bureaucrats and government departments, as they cope and change. Good stuff, although from my perspective its emphasis on big government misses a lot of the story. There are probably a hundred pages on airport passenger screening without the slightest indication that, in fact, hijacking is no longer a problem, because passengers now jump on anyone who looks the least bit like a hijacker.

To balance that, the thorny problem of screening for bombs in airplanes and in shipping containers is probably an appropriate job for government, and I found our efforts there to be a gripping story. And it looks like our government agencies have in fact made enormous progress in coping with some difficult problems, and haven't received much credit from people like me.

Last August I posted this haiku:

Still: sunbeamed dust flits.
Bare wall echoes unheard call.
At a desk, Ridge sits.

By Will Warren (via Natalie Solent)

It is very interesting (and embarassing) to read now about how hard Tom Ridge was working at that very moment to coordinate the efforts of various jurisdictions so they could work together on the next emergency. And the story of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which was happening right then, is fascinating. Ridge's first (and very sensible) suggestion to bring together Immigration, Customs and Coast Guard was shot down instantly by jealous cabinet members. It was Bush who told him that a big change would actually be easier to pass than a small one, and to go back to the drawing board and propose the best solution, and then they would fight for it.

Posted by John Weidner at August 23, 2003 10:12 AM
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