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The Fate of Washington's "Wars"

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

If you are going to use a cliché, at least use an apt one, please.

Discussing the swine flu during his “I’ve been in office 100 days” news conference (really? we hadn’t noticed), President Barack Obama announced he’d been in “day-to-day,” even “hour-to-hour” conversations with health experts.

“They have not recommended a border closing,” the president announced. “From their perspective, it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States.” Well, that’s certainly making a virtue out of a vice.

But perhaps the point is better made by the story of the fox that couldn’t reach some grapes. “Those grapes,” it decided, “must be sour.” The sad fact is, our federal government isn’t going to close the Mexican border, whether it wants to or not, because it cannot close the Mexican border.

In recent years our government has hired more border patrol agents, deployed the National Guard and debated “comprehensive immigration reform.” Yet as a border observer pointed out via e-mail recently, in Arizona, trail cameras show “drug caravan escorts with military assault weapons, and pictures of commercial-sized trucks motoring through the desert back roads with 40-60 illegals hanging off the trucks in broad daylight miles from any town.”

Meanwhile, on, Chris Burgard writes that in Texas, “Brooks County Inspector Daniel Davila says that 75 percent of the crime that they respond to is related to illegal alien and narcotics trafficking.”

The federal government is constitutionally required to protect our borders. And it can’t.

Still, some never lose their faith.

Recently on CBS’ Face the Nation, Arlen Specter, the senator representing himself, declared he’d left the Republican Party in part because of a dispute over health care. “If we had pursued what President Nixon declared in 1970 as the war on cancer, we would have cured many strains,” Specter intoned.

Considering how poorly the government fares in its “wars,” that’s difficult to believe.

Look no further than the “war on poverty” declared by President Lyndon Johnson. In the years since, the government has spent trillions of dollars on welfare programs, but barely made a dent in poverty. The Census Bureau says there are 37 million poor people in the United States, down from about 40 million in 1960.

Rather than curing poverty, all that spending has managed to prolong it by destroying the traditional family. “When the War on Poverty began in the 1960s, 7 percent of U.S. children were born outside of marriage,” writes Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation. “Today, the number is 38 percent. Among blacks, it is 69 percent.”

A year or so ago liberals demanded an “exit strategy” from the war in Iraq. But, 45 years on, what’s our nation’s “exit strategy” from a failed “war” on poverty?

Many point to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as the beginning of the end of the Bush administration. But the better question is why it wasn’t the end of our faith in government. Government was in charge of the levees. They failed. Governments (state and local, too) were in charge of the evacuation. It was a disaster. Governments were in charge of maintaining order. They failed to do so.

Meanwhile private industry (Walmart) and private organizations (religious groups across the country) worked. They stepped up to provide products and help after the storm.

Or, to cite Obama again, let’s go back to his State of the Union address. He invited Ty’Sheoma Bethea, a middle-schooler from South Carolina, to sit with the First Lady. Her school was “a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom,” Obama said. She “typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room,” asking for help.

Well, help has arrived, but not from Washington.

The company Sagus International donated a quarter of a million dollars and, over a weekend, 25 workers delivered new desks and chairs to the school. Bethea says she’s learned a lesson. “Students should never give up on their dreams, because dreams do come true.” That’s true -- as long as you don’t have to wait for Washington to deliver.

All this is worth considering as the Obama administration attempts to centralize even more power in Washington. The president hopes to do for health care and college loans what the government has already done for border security: Run them out of Washington, in a way that simply doesn’t work. We’d be better off locking the barn door, before any more horses escape.

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