Wednesday, September 12, 2001

America at War

America At War
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
September 11-12, 2001

Terrorists attacked the United States on Tuesday, Sept. 11 with such force, in such epic proportion, it made the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor resemble the Boston Tea Party.

That is not for one second to diminish the severity of Pearl Harbor, an attack and declaration of war by the Japanese provoking the United States into World War II. No, instead it is to emphasize the heinous nature of this cowardly attack that Arizona Sen. John McCain, himself a veteran and war hero of the Vietnam War, called an act of war.

Four events unfolded almost simultaneously on Tuesday. Four United States commercial airplanes were hijacked and eventually crashed into targets wreaking such devastation its enormity may not be fully realized for days or even weeks. The first two planes crashed into the two Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City ultimately turning those 110-story buildings into rubble and dust killing potentially, thousands of innocent civilians.

The third plane found its target smashing into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., partially destroying that symbol of America’s military. The fourth plane supposedly heading toward the White House crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

While there is sadness, and rightfully so, for the devastating loss of life, there should also be anger. Anger over a lax security system at America’s airports. Anger over a lax immigration policy in the United States.

This is the boldest, most horrific attack against the United States in its history, anywhere. The legend of First Lady Dolley Madison running through the White House to save the portrait of George Washington during the British attack on Washington during the War of 1812 does not compare to the thousands of people running through the streets of Manhattan following the crumbling of the World Trade Center as if chased by the bulls of Pamplona, Spain.

Thousands of innocent lives have been lost. They should be mourned. Go to synagogues, churches or mosques – remember the dead, pray for their souls, and pray for their survivors. Let’s not forget the policemen and firefighters – those who survived and those who perished. They are true heroes. Each and every life lost should also be avenged.

“This is an attack on our civilization,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Terrorists do not deserve justice. Justice is for those who can feel remorse. Justice is for those with a conscience. This was a tyrannical attack by cowardly zealots reveling in the suffering of others. Just look at the footage that came from the Middle East with Palestinians dancing and cheering in a refugee camp in Lebanon.
“They hate us for our freedom,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) from the floor of the Senate on Wednesday morning.

“Those with a demonic view,” have attempted to destroy “the freedom that is the foundation of our nation,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from the House floor Wednesday morning during the One Minute Speeches.

Americans have a long history of defending the freedom of other nations of the world. Today America is rebuilding the shattered psyche of a people to enable it to once again enjoy freedom at home.

The United States must take swift and certain steps to demonstrate that it will not take this act of aggression lying down. A determination of who is responsible must come quickly. Military forces must be mobilized and the retaliation must be proportional. A message must be sent that America will not roll over.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright said it is important for the United States to have international support before it reacts to the violence perpetrated against it. That kind of liberal pandering will only demonstrate that the United States is weak and unable to vigorously stand up for itself.

America must not concern itself with world opinion. Its first concern must be the safety and protection of the American people. America must not allow infiltrators to wreck the fabric of the American way of life it has earned through years of hard work and a constant striving for betterment. It must demonstrate that it is still a strong and vital nation that will not slink away in the face of pressure and distress, but instead stare adversity in the face and not blink – acting swiftly and severely.

American intelligence agencies continue investigating and seeking out evidence, which thus far points to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi fugitive believed to be harbored by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was affiliated with the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. He and supporters, particularly the American supporters he has in places like Florida, must be eliminated without hesitation. The nation of Afghanistan and/or any other land harboring bin Laden and/or his supporters must pay the price for their alliance with extreme severity.

This should not be an invitation for random attacks upon American Muslims or the desecration of mosques. In an attempt to head off any such attacks, boxing great Muhammad Ali, an American Muslim, said, “If the culprits are Muslims they have twisted the teachings of Islam.”

The borders must be sealed and a strict immigration policy needs to be adopted and adhered to. People who are not American citizens should not be allowed to flit from nation to nation willy-nilly. Today’s immigrants are not the same kind of immigrants that poured through America’s ports from the 1880s through the 1920s.

The southern and eastern Europeans coming to America were forced to have a job, the promise of a job and/or a sponsor who would bear responsibility for the new immigrant. Those same new immigrants came to America speaking Yiddish, Italian, Greek, Magyar, Russian and many other languages indigenous to southern and eastern Europe, and without the benefit of English as a Second Language classes, managed to learn English – with pride. They studied and became citizens – citizens who vote, serve on juries (willingly or unwillingly) and volunteer to make their communities better places.

Many of today’s immigrants have made a decided choice not to learn English or become citizens, yet somehow have been able to take advantage of the social programs invented by liberals that only encourage a greater influx of immigrants. This is not a case of xenophobia, but a dose of reality.

Airports nationwide have admitted to less than circumspect hiring practices and a lack of scrutinization of employee credentials. The level of security must be raised to the point of visibility and total saturation at airports, border stations, schools and stadiums. America has already learned the hard way that its enemies have placed a zero value to human life.

The not knowing when and where the next attack may be struck is much akin to the nation holding its collective breath in 1961 during the Cuban Missile Crisis when Soviet nuclear warheads were aimed at the United States.

Life as it is known in these United States will be forever altered. Transportation systems such as subways, bus and train depots and airports must experience a heightened security. The borders of the United States must be more securely guarded. An increased police presence in communities from rural hamlets to overpopulated metropolises is becoming mandatory.

“This was an indiscriminant cruel thing,” said renowned sportscaster and author Jim McKay, who remained on the air throughout the Arab terrorist kidnapping and ultimate slaughter of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes during the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. In comparing the murder of the 11 Israeli athletes to the terrorist attacks on American soil on Tuesday, McKay said NFL games should not be played this coming Sunday. It is an issue of safety for both the teams and the fans – 60,000 to 70,000 people in the stands. “Something else could happen,” said McKay, who called the two events the most tragic since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. In a decision he admitted he regretted NFL Commissioner, the late Pete Rozelle, determined that the NFL scheduled games for that Sunday would be played.

It should be noted that following only a one-day suspension of competition, that included a memorial service attended by 80,000 people, the then 84-year-old IOC president, and anti-Semite, Avery Brundage declared, “The Games must go on.”

Let the indelible pictures of the fireballs, collapsing buildings and dust reminiscent of nuclear winter, be the constant reminder of the evil that has been perpetrated against this great nation. Let the void where the World Trade Center used to stand be the memorial for those who will also no longer stand.

Citizens should demonstrate their patriotism by flying their flags and observing Constitution Day on Monday, Sept. 17. This year is the 214th anniversary of one of the greatest documents ever written.

The gauntlet has been thrown down at the feet of the United States. The United States must pick up that gauntlet and strike back with a vigor and gusto that declares: never again will this great nation fall prey to such ugliness.

“Our grandchildren will not just ask where we were on Sept. 11, 2001, but what we did about it,” said Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) from the House floor on Wednesday during the One Minute Speeches. “What we did about it – the only way to eradicate terrorism is to eradicate terrorists. We must move forward forcefully.”

May G-d continue to bless America and the American people.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer living in Sterling, VA.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

Congressional Baseball - an American Pastime

Congressional Baseball – an American Pastime
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
June 21, 2001

Having more fun than a human being should be allowed, two of my passions – baseball and politics were combined as I attended the 40th annual Congressional Baseball Game, played tonight, Thursday, June 21, at Prince Georges’s Stadium in Bowie, Md. – the home of the Orioles Double-A Bowie Bay Sox.

In a game that mattered as much to the over 60 participating Congressman as a campaign fundraiser, spirits were high while the elected officials could not have been more congenial and affable.

But this was serious business as the game featured four umpires, hustle – as witnessed by a professional-looking headfirst slide into third base, players/legislators running out batted balls, steals and attempts to turn the double play.

So serious that Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), wearing a Potomac Cannons uniform, who I cover in my duties as a journalist, said “make sure that looks like a line drive in print,” with a grin on his face after dunking a bleeder into the outfield and was subsequently replaced by designated pinch-runner Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL).

Putnam, by the way, at 27, is the youngest member in the House – barely looks old enough to order a beer legally. Joking with another reporter from North Carolina, we knew Putnam had to be at least 25 to wear the uniform, but hey, let’s see some ID fella!

The game was slated for a first pitch, but the combination of a House vote and traffic – big surprise, delayed the arrival of most of the members. Oddly enough there were about 10 members on the field when I arrived at about Hmm – who wasn’t on the House floor to vote? Just a thought.

The players were decked out in uniforms from Major League teams, minor league teams, college teams and even a high school team, as evidenced by Putnam (probably his original uniform). Sadly, as a Republican and a lifelong Mets fan, it pained me to see two Republicans in Yankee pinstripes – something my mother would have liked and the lone Met uniform was worn by a Democrat – Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY), who was brutalized by fans. (Should have changed his last name.)

On the other hand California Republican Rep. Richard Pombo seemed to have the biggest cheering section in the stands, complete with signs looking like a throw back to Banner Day at Shea Stadium.

And like a kid in a candy store, I couldn’t get enough of the conversations with some of the most powerful men and women in America. Conversations about baseball – whether or not they would start, come off the bench or the ability of the DC-metro area to sustain and support a Major League team. The bi-partisan consensus was, yes, not only can the DC-metro area support a Major League team it is long overdue to get a team.

“It’s a great baseball town. They’re starving for it,” said Illinois Democrat Rep. Marty Russo, who wore a Chicago White Sox uniform.

“DC is a major city. Any place that can have the hunger for so many years will thrive. The selfish response is I’m a big fan and would attend,” said New York Republican Rep. John Sweeney in a Yankees uniform.

Without a doubt, this was a night of baseball, not politics as Rep. Russo and Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) in his Indiana Hoosiers uniform, were discussing baseball across the foul lines and not policy across party lines.

This was not a night of position papers, but who would play what position. Not a night about strategic defense initiatives, but just defense. Not a night of pitching policy, but pitch counts.

Standing at home plate and facing the outfield, the Republicans naturally occupied the first base dugout – the one to the right, while the Democrats used the third base dugout – to the left. The public address announcer introduced the Republicans first, as the visiting team, determined by the fact that the Democrats won last year’s game. Then the Democrats were introduced – just like an all-star game.

I think the game should be played in alternating stadiums – one year in Bowie, Md. and the next year at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Va. the home of the Potomac Cannons. The Democrats should be home team in Maryland while the GOP should be the home team in Virginia.

Adding to the excitement, if that were at all possible, was Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig throwing out the first pitch, having donned a Bay Sox jersey for the moment. Selig gave a number of interviews to network television stations, cable TV as well as radio. Not only did I meet the Commish, but I had a quick two-minute interview with him with regards to bringing baseball back to the DC-metro area and possible constriction or relocation of teams.

We also discussed big market vs. little market noting the success of the Seattle Mariners without the likes of Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr. and A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez). Selig said that Seattle should not be considered a small market and that their current pace would be difficult to maintain over a 162-game season. I suggested that the Minnesota Twins, a legitimate small market franchise, were playing sold ball, having been in first place most of the season, but Selig said “the season’s barely half over. Don’t rule out the Indians.”

The Indians are my dear friend Troy’s favorite team, who I would be remiss if I didn’t mention. Troy would have had as much fun as I did schmoozing with the Congressmen as I did all evening on the field and in the dugout throughout the game.

Although not in uniform, I did meet Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and future team member Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA). Hart, a freshman representative having just won her House seat last November, said she hopes to play in next year’s game.

Interestingly enough, and I will take a partisan swipe here, the Republicans had three women on their roster, while the Democrats, the alleged party of the people, had none. In fact, the three lady Republican House members, Rep. Shelley Moore Caputo (R-WV), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) each got into the game. Ros-Lehtinen, resembling Eddie Gaedel, and Wilson received huge ovations as they strode to home plate to take their turns at bat. Each of the three was delightful to talk to and interview.

The game itself was dominated by the GOP, led by the professional arm of Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK). Largent, an NFL Hall of Famer and one of the great receivers of all time, tossed a gem, yielding only one run, striking out seven and walking no one in a seven inning complete game shellacking of the Democrats 9-1. Wearing a Tulsa Drillers uniform, Double-A for the Texas Rangers, and in Texas Ranger colors, Largent wore number 34 and looked every bit like Nolan Ryan.

During the post-game party, which was invite only, Largent was presented with the MVP plaque. Minnesota Rep. Martin Sabo, coach of the losing Democrats, wished Largent well in his quest to become governor of Oklahoma in order to get him out of the House and off the GOP team.

Later during the party, Tim Johnson, PR aide to Rep. Mike Oxley (R-OH) said there would now be an 11-month recruitment period to replace Largent on the hill – that’s pitcher’s mound, not The Hill. And kudos to Johnson and Peggy Peterson, another Oxley aide for their stellar organizational skills as the game went off without a hitch, save for the tardiness of the players.

The party featured a spread of chicken, beef barbecue, pork barbecue, Cole slaw, Caesar Salad, traditional garden salad, beans, rolls, apple pie, three flavors of ice cream with toppings, beer, wine, soda and water.

Naturally, ESPN’s Baseball Tonight was on and the elected officials could track the play of their favorite teams. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) talked excitedly about his Mariners and said nothing good about the departed Griffey, Jr. A real fan, and he spoke candidly. A nice guy too. Also in the good guy column is Rep. John Baldacci (D-ME) who, in a University of Maine uniform, bragged about the Black Bears, as Maine has no Major League team.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), sporting an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform, and I shared stories about one of my political heroes, Sen. Barry Goldwater. Having met and interviewed the late Arizona conservative six years ago at his home in Arizona, I was able to discuss Goldwater on a personal level with Flake, who headed up the Goldwater institute for seven years before getting elected to the House. Flake couldn’t have been nicer.

Nor could have Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who ironically was clad in a Trenton Thunder uniform. Ironic because the Thunder is the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and Smith is a Yankee fan. Smith, as it turns out, when not in his home district in New Jersey, lives in Herndon of all places – my central coverage area with the paper.

Overall, this was quite an experience including meeting a team of Korean documentary filmmakers (I’ve coined a new word – documentariests) who were creating a documentary about the American Congress and how they work hard, as I was told by their translator an American-educated Korean. In fact I provided some background for his team about some of the representatives and baseball as well. Some of the rules were altered for the game – such as a liberal substitution policy.

Meeting the Commissioner and Congressmen was exciting, now I just hope the pictures I took and had taken come out to go along with the balls I got signed – one by Bud Selig and one by most of the Republicans. I’m looking forward to next year’s game.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer living in Sterling, VA.