A New Strength and a New Freedom

Before the day that changed everything, our political leaders were under the delusion that they could indulge in petty and partisan disputes involving illusory lockboxes and schemes to micromanage the health care of ordinary citizens.

No more.

Defending freedom and providing for the common defense ARE the first jobs of the U.S. government, and their neglect exacts an incalculable toll.

It is unspeakably tragic that it has taken a disaster of these proportions to remind our leaders of this central truth. But we will head into this century a stronger nation if we heed this lesson.

During the decade of the ’90s following the end of the Cold War, Americans believed that the world was now a safe place. The United States was a proud and unchallenged beacon of democracy and of economic strength for the world. Terrorists were considered a threat – but a manageable, and distant, one.

Far too much of our nation’s political energies were focused inwardly on domestic policy issues – most notably on the Clinton administration’s efforts in 1993 and 1994 to take over health care, a segment of the economy that government has no business running.

Later, both the media and the government were obsessed with the sexual scandals that also preoccupied the country.

If the world perceived that we had a foreign policy strategy in the Clinton era, it was likely seen as “strike as a smoke-screen” to divert attention from the president’s political problems.

This era must end.

The narcissism of the past must turn to a new maturity. We must stop spending our resources and energies on vote-buying entitlements, like a $300-billion entitlement for government-funded prescription drugs to cover even the wealthiest Americans.

We should focus on spending money where it is needed. In a wealthy and civilized nation, this means helping those who genuinely need assistance.

But most importantly, it means recognizing that the world is indeed a dangerous place. There is evil in the world, and our government’s essential role is to protect our nation’s security.

“The number one priority is supposed to be national defense,” Rep. Curt Weldon, R-PA, chairman of the House Armed Services Military Readiness Subcommittee, said yesterday. “We have failed our people today?and that’s an indictment of both parties.”

The response to the airplane bombings in New York and Washington will be mettle against which the presidency of George W. Bush is tested. And against which the will of Congress will be judged.

The strength of the nation’s military and intelligence communities have been eroded as the nation focused too much on domestic issues and not enough on world affairs and defense modernization.

Our leaders must also focus on building the infrastructure that will make our country stronger and more secure in this century — including the nation’s transportation and information infrastructure that are in desperate need of investment capital.

Our country will prevail as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death on the path to finding a new strength and a new freedom for our nation.

And a final note: Those who have scorned the United State because of our huge population of “uninsured” citizens must take another look now.

Hospitals in New York City and Washington instantly mobilized to handle the injured — regardless of race, age, sex ? or insurance status. Doctors and nurses were on high alert, working feverishly to save lives.

Even hospitals in other parts of the country were ready to handle more injured in specialized trauma centers.

Tragically, too few casualties have arrived at hospitals to receive this care because the death and destruction from the impact and the fires were so catastrophic.

But the fact that highly trained medical personnel with highly sophisticated equipment were available is testimony to the strength of our health care system — and its willingness and ability to treat anyone who needs care.

Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a health policy research organization in Alexandria, VA, three miles south of the Pentagon. She can be reached at P.O. Box 19080, Alexandria, VA 22320.

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