Live From New York

A False Sense of Security

People of Compassion can only take you so far, Convention-wise.

By 9.1.04

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NEW YORK -- Since, as I'm sure you've heard, there are seemingly endless numbers of police officers concentrated around Madison Square Garden, you may be wondering where there might be a shortage. I think I have the answer.

Newark.

Let me explain.

Like many travelers, I often pass the hours in transit by amusing and terrifying myself with the popular game Terrorist in My Head. This is where I challenge my ingenuity by assessing, as an ill-willed maniac might, the job that's being done to protect me (and my fellow travelers, but mostly me).

Arriving last night at Penn Station, while the convention went on in the Garden above, afforded a perfect opportunity. As I rode the train up from Baltimore, I considered the size of my bag, and how powerful an explosive might fit in it -- not that I have the expertise to know that -- and what would happen if I left it on the train. (I had several other thoughts about how enemies might proceed, but I think I'll I stop putting ideas out there.) I was encouraged when it was announced that we should take our seats in Newark, the last stop before New York City, and be prepared for transit police to board the train and ask us to identify our possessions.

One problem: I never saw these officers. In the fifteen minutes between Newark and Manhattan, they never got around to searching my train-car. Perhaps they're rotating the cars they check, but given the throngs of law enforcement in Penn Station itself and the surrounding neighborhood, it seems as if they should be able to completely search a six-car train on every trip.

If the rules of jurisdiction are preventing more police from riding the trains, those rules should be changed. The Amtrak rails arrive deep underground and there's plenty of concrete surrounding them, but even a relatively harmless boom could cause cascading panic, itself a threat.

I GOT TO MY MANHATTAN-SIZED -- that is, tiny -- hotel room just in time for the prime time speeches. Arnold Schwarzenegger did very well, and no doubt helped not just the campaign but the party as a whole. But it was nonetheless hard not to wish that Monday night's call to arms (the theme was "A Nation of Courage") had gotten the same network coverage as last night's speeches ("People of Compassion"). If Rudy Giuliani is America's Mayor, Laura Bush is its PTA President; she's an extremely likable and charming woman, but this campaign requires more than just charm. Too much of her speech echoed the we-love-veterans tone of the Democrats' convention. It's the concrete defense of the policy that our troops are executing that is needed. The boasts about massive education spending -- cringe-worthy as they may be -- may attract some votes, but they're not where the real action is in this election. The President's speech that caps off the convention will no doubt have some parts that fit with the Tuesday night vibe, but if it's successful it will be thanks to heavy doses of Monday night.

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About the Author

John Tabin is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator online.