Sept. 11 – Education – Immigration. Get Serious!

The post-9/11 United States remains a frivolous
country. The populace is still under-informed; few are
interested in becoming involved.

Our leaders are just as foolish and self-serving as
they were last summer.

Whether it is the ridiculous or the sublime, the
right decision is generally rejected in favor of the
easy way out.

Bill Clinton couldn`t make the tough choice about
terrorism. One month after Clinton took office, the
World Trade Center bombing sent a huge warning to the
U.S. that the it had enemies intent on doing the maximum

Soon after the WTC incident, the FBI learned that
Osama bin Laden was financing U.S.-based al-Qaida

But Clinton, even though told by his advisers that
the public would support a war on terrorism, ignored the

The Clinton administration waffled even more during
his second term. An al-Qaida defector, Jamal al-Fadl,
told an American embassy official in Africa exactly what
bin Laden was planning.

Armed with the al-Fadl information, Clinton issued
four separate “memorandums of notification” authorizing
the CIA to kill or capture bin Laden.

Each time, CIA director George Tenet said al-Fadl`s
information was not solid enough to move on.

At the same time, the Clinton-appointed Gore
commission on airport security recommended that the CIA
and the FBI share information on suspected terrorists.
The report was totally ignored.

Ultimately, whatever interest Clinton may have had in
pursuing terrorists melted away in Monica Lewinsky`s

The Bush administration had no more interest than
Clinton`s outgoing National Security Adviser Sandy
Berger who told his successor Condoleezza Rice that bin
Laden and al-Qaida would consume most of her time.

And CIA director Tenet, despite his earlier
hesitancy, told Bush that al-Qaida remained “the most
immediate and serious threat” to national security.

Berger and Tenet were dismissed as alarmists.

Two months ago, the talking heads on the cable
channels were predicting that bin Laden would be
“captured in 96 hours.” Now all bets have been hedged.
How wrong can people be?

Of course, Afghanistan isn`t the only area where the
prospect of making tough decisions turns legislators
into jelly.

How much longer are we going to have to hear that
education is the No. 1 priority of every office seeker?

This week Bush signed yet another new education bill.
This one, according to Bush, will “create a new path of
reform and a new path of results.”

All of the education bills signed over the last two
decades aren`t worth the powder to blow them up. The
only certain thing is that the latest version will fall
flat with the same resounding thud as the others.

Let`s be honest: The public school system is a

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education issued a
report that stated U.S. schools need an immediate
infusion of $127 billion for infrastructure repairs

That`s $2,700 per student for every student in the

According to the same report, one-quarter of all
students attend classes in buildings the Department of
Education lists as “inadequate.”

Soon, every child will be left behind.

Bush talks about evening the education playing field
between the rich and the poor. That`s hard to do when
poor children are pouring into our schools at
unprecedented levels.

That leads us to the hottest potato of them
all—immigration. Despite evidence from all corners that
U.S. immigration policy has brought chaos, no tough
decisions appear on the horizon.

Listen to the take of U.S. District Judge Edwin Prado,
a guest on Bill O`Reilly`s Fox News program. Prado, a
Mexican-American, said that because heightened security
has resulted in more arrests at border checkpoints,
caseloads have overwhelmed the courts.

Each new arrest creates a series of Catch-22s.

More arrests mean more trials and more convictions.
Convictions create less jail space.

Knowing that fewer jail cells are empty, defense
lawyers are in a better position to plea-bargain.
Plea-bargains result in lighter punishment for hardened

Or, for those who do go to jail, the prisons are so
crowded that sentences are shortened to make room for
the next batch of thugs. When the illegal aliens are
deported, the borders remain so porous that the first
thing they do is cross over again.

Among those who return, according to Judge Prado, are
murderers, rapists and child-abusers.

Although some say it wouldn`t work, why not try
putting the military on the border to slow down illegal
alien traffic?

We could settle once and for all the debate about
whether the military would be effective. But since no
politician in Washington has the appetite for this
solution, the status quo remains.

Switching into the less consequential—and grinding a
personal ax, I admit—can anyone explain the fascination
with Rudy Giuliani and his Time Magazine Person of the
Year Award?

Did Giuliani do anything differently after 9/11 than
former New York mayors Robert Wagner, John Lindsey, Abe
Beame or David Dinkens would have done?

And does the Person of the Year get a pass on good

Smooching with your girlfriend on national television
on New Year`s Eve is questionable judgment, at best.

Giuliani`s being anointed smacks of the post 9/11
commercialism that grows more brazen every day.

Using Time`s own standards for Person of the Year—the
person whose actions did the most for good or evil
during the year—the winner is bin Laden. But bin Laden
as a cover boy isn`t good for magazine sales.

New York Times` columnist Frank Rich has an excellent
suggestion in his column

“Patriotism on the Cheap.”

To help us keep our perspective, Rich recommends a
trip to the New York Historical Society where a
25-minute video of the 9/11 attacks plays continuously.
The tape has no sound, no crawls, no logos and no flags.
Audiences watch in “stunned silence.”

As long as we can keep the image of the WTC crumbling
and 3,000 lives lost, making the hard decisions might
not be so hard after all.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the

Lodi News-Sentinel