The screeching you hear in Washington is the sound of politicians slamming their mouths into reverse as they back away from their previous positions on the misnamed "budget sequester." For weeks now, we have been told that an $85 billion reduction in the rate of increase in federal spending -- a 2.4 percent cut -- will have devastating consequences for our nation.
According to administration spokesmen and supporters, the sequestration means reduced agricultural inspections and the prospect of tainted food, cuts in childhood immunizations and more ill kids, long delays at airport security checkpoints, air traffic disruptions and dangerous vulnerabilities on our frontiers and ports of entry as U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are furloughed. And of course, fewer police, firemen and park rangers on duty means that lawbreakers are going to run rampant in our communities and that forest fires will threaten us all.
Supposedly, we also will have to live with dirtier air and water and the prospect of an environmental catastrophe. Even our weather forecasts -- and warnings about hazardous storms in the midst of an era of "climate change" -- will be adversely affected. In short, just about everything we count on the federal government to do for us is coming to a screeching halt.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued an alert that "the nation will be less safe." Attorney General Eric Holder warned us that the "cuts" will mean fewer FBI agents to apprehend criminals and that "prosecutors will have to let criminals go." Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even took time off from his celebrity basketball duties to tell a Sunday talk show that teachers in West Virginia "are getting pink slips."
But none of that is true -- unless the administration wants it to be so. FBI and Border Patrol agents won't be laid off -- but the rate of hiring new ones may be slowed. Prosecutors aren't going to let criminals go free. And even the pro-Obama editors at The Washington Post couldn't find a single West Virginia teacher put out of work by the sequestration.
There is only one part of the sequestration that will have an immediate adverse effect on the safety and security of American citizens: the rigid reductions in operations and maintenance funding for our armed forces. Military personnel won't be fired or furloughed. But civilian employees and contractors supporting our troops in the field and providing medical care for our wounded will be. Congress and the White House could fix those problems by giving the Department of Defense and our intelligence services flexibility in where they make cuts. They should do so immediately.
Meanwhile, just so we all know that bizarre behavior is not the sole purview of the executive branch, the U.S. House of Representatives has joined the race for D.C. dunce. On Feb. 28, the House passed the Senate's version of the Obama administration's expanded Violence Against Women Act.
Left-leaning pundits proclaim that the new law will somehow provide additional protections for American Indian women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people and immigrants. In short, you are covered by this "new protection" as long as you can prove you are not a heterosexual white male.
Congressional and Obama administration proponents apparently want us to ignore that the new law adds $650 million in spending to the already bloated federal budget. Nor has anyone noted an obvious inconsistency: While we're passing new laws to protect women, we're putting them into U.S. military ground combat units. Perhaps fear of prosecution will prevent enemy combatants from raping our female soldiers and Marines on the battlefield.
And finally, in the midst of "austerity," we have our new secretary of state, John Kerry, on his all-expenses-paid grand tour of European capitals. This week, he announced a $60 million grant in "nonlethal aid" to the Syrian opposition. Where is this money coming from?
Kerry also is showing his independence from the White House. When Nobel laureate Barack Obama travels overseas, he prefers to bow to foreign potentates and apologize for America. Instead of apologizing in foreign capitals, Kerry prefers to insult us.
In Berlin, he told a young audience that in the 1950s, at the age of 12, he took a secret bicycle ride in the Soviet-controlled sector of the divided city. Apparently hoping the German kids don't know about his claimed exploits in Cambodia in 1968, he added, "I never made another trip like that." The German kids also laughed and applauded Kerry for saying, "In America, you have a right to be stupid." He should know. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump: "Stupid is as stupid does."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.