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Terror Cuts to NYC and DC: Fox Defending the Indefensible

Reported by Janie - June 2, 2006

In an extremely "un-balanced" segment, every single one of the "All Stars" on Special Report with Brit Hume last night (6/1) defended the indefensible by taking the Bush Administration's side on the recent budget cuts to NYC and DC for terror preparation. These misnamed "All Stars" regurgitated every right-wing talking point they could think of to justify the Administration's poor decision, even resorting to attacking the cities that were hit on 9/11.

Hume opened the segment, "The administration says they did this in a reasonable way, they looked at all the grand proposals that were made, they took the best proposals, they looked at the cities that had already built up their infrastructure and so forth, who's right in this controversy?"

Jeff Birnbaum, writer for the Washington Post who has a history of spinning on behalf of the GOP, responded first, and claimed that there's a lot of blame to go around, but that the method used by Homeland Security may have hurt big cities. Hume asked "How so?" to which Birnbaum explained the process used by Homeland Security for awarding the funds:

"There were specialists on HLS, first responders for example, from more than 40 states around the country who evaluated these applications. I think necessarily that would mean few cities that got a lot of the original money when these grants started going out, plus especially, NY and Washington were unlikely to get as much money from people than let's say from Iowa, or Idaho, who were looking into this. At the same time, I think Sec. Chertoff makes a very good point which is you can't simply hand out money based on what you think the general risk is to cities, but also what they've done already with the money they've already gotten, and what they are asking for in terms of their applications."

Birnbaum finished his explanation with a perfect nominee for "Outrageous Quote of the Week", "That is really how the money should be passed out, rather than some welfare program based on something that happened 4 years ago. Tragic though it may be."

Kondrake was up next, and was full of inexplicable contradictions. "The fundamental fact is that Congress cut the budget for this urban program across the board, and the overall program is down by 342 million dollars from what the President asked, so Peter King out to go talk to his appropriations committee if he's got a real complaint. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, NY City will get something like 18% of the total of urban areas, and it's traditional share of the total has been 19%, so the dollar amount is way down, but the percentage is about the same. And it's still the biggest city. Even Peter King acknowledges the explanation that he got was, well the application from NYC wasn't very good for this money. That they were using the money to pay overtime pay for cops who were, granted, required to do work at elevated periods of danger, but still, the city's got to bear some of this responsibility, and a number of these cities have received 0 up until now and finally they're getting some of the money. I trust Chertoff, by the way, to, he said from day one that this was going to based on risk assessment – and he says this is based on a new sophisticated method of risk, he's not spreading it around politically, I don't think."

Comment: So according to Kondrake, paying the police force overtime as they battle tragic situations (such as the police and firefighters that fought bravely and died on 9/11) is unacceptable use of terror preparation funds.

But notice his comment about Chertoff. Kondracke out right states that Chertoff said the funds would be allocated based on "risk assessment". Apparently, NYC and DC are very low on the "risk assessment" list, otherwise Kondracke wouldn't be defending the "new sophisticated method of risk". Sheer spin.

Hume then turned his attention to Barnes, "Fred, is this a case of hell hath no fury like a politician who's federal money has been curbed?"

Following a rant about "demagoguery" over the Dubai Ports Deal and the William Jefferson scandal, Barnes finally answered: "...I agree with Mort. Chertoff had a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, that there's already been a base of security built up in cities like Washington and New York, and there are other cities that have a lower level of preparedness, so what may seem like a disproportionate amount of money should go to them now – it makes sense to me."

Hume then questioned what I found to be the most interesting part of this whole situation, "And what about this business about the quality of the applications Jeff was mentioning?"

Barnes actually stammered over this, "I didn't read any of them, so I don't know, so regardless of that it seems to make sense. That didn't seem to be a big factor in the decisions that were made, at least not the way Chertoff explained it."

Comment: Aren't Republicans supposed to be about less government and bureaucracy? Risk assessment and allocation of funds is now based on what kind of presentation the city can come up with?

Birnbaum finished the segment with, "I think the big cities, NY and Washington in particular, assumed they were entitled to this money and they didn't put as much effort into their applications, and the result is they're paying the price. But they should! I mean, this is money that of course doesn't exist, this is all deficit spending basically, and there's not a bottomless pit. There should be some rational way to spread the money around, or more importantly not give as much of it as they used to, which in my book the right one."

None of these aiders and abettors had the guts to tell the American people how some of these decisions were reached - that the Bush Administration feels Washington DC, the home of many US monuments and the seat of government, ranks in the bottom 25% of states and territories at risk. This also includes the surrounding areas of suburban MD and VA, which would be just as affected by an attack in DC, in the grant money for DC. The District was given $4.3 million, less than Rhode Island, Wyoming, South Dakota and PUERTO RICO!

New York City, who has been hit twice, received 40% less funds and according to the New York Times:

"Federal officials said yesterday that the city had not only done a poor job of articulating its needs in its application, but had also mishandled the application itself, failing to file it electronically as required, instead faxing its request to Washington."

They lost terror funding because they didn't file electronically?!?!

Also at issue is New York City's apparent lack of national monuments or icons. Have these Administration officials ever BEEN to New York City?

The segment, which certainly didn't live up to Fox's "fair and balanced" moniker, was used to safeguard the Administration. After all the fear Fox has tried to instill in its viewers, suddenly cuts in terror funding to the top targets is A-OK. And the Republicans claim to be tough on National Security? Keep it up Bush - you'll win the 2006 election for Democrats single-handedly.

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