Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 25, 2012

The Presidential Debates: Substantial agreement on homeland security

The word “homeland” was used once,  the term “homeland security” not at all  in the three presidential debates.  But a close-reading of the transcripts does expose HS-related discussion.

Below are direct excerpts from the debate transcripts.  I have purposefully not identified who said what.  Where the candidates seem to mostly agree, I have only quoted one of them.  Occasionally a candidate asserted a difference that — at least to me — seemed either non-substantive or illusory.  I have not included these assertions.  There are subtle distinctions.  I have chosen excerpts that I hope bring these forward.

To me the distinctions — on these issues —  often run counter to each candidate’s stereotype. President Obama comes off tougher than the other side wants to admit, Governor Romney more reasonable than he is portrayed.  Debate posturing?  Meaningful insight?  My own eccentric tendency to see what is shared more than what divides?


The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That’s its most basic function…

The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents. First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people…



First of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants… I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined. I want it to be clearer. I don’t think you have to — shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also think that we should give visas to people — green cards, rather — to  people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma, come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure our legal system works.

Number two, we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place… What I will do is I’ll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so. I won’t put in place magnets for people coming here illegally. The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids, I think, should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States and military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident…

If we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that’s what we’ve done. And what I’ve also said is for young people who come here, brought here often times by their parents. Had gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag. Think of this as their country. Understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers. And we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship…

Domestic Counterterrorism (or Whole Community or gun control)

So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement…

Weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally… Part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence… And so what can we do to intervene, to make sure that young people have opportunity; that our schools are working; that if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control…

And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.

Resilience (?)

I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded.


International Counterterrorism

But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is — it’s certainly not on the run. It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America, long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism…

A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the — the world reject these — these terrorists. And the answer they came up with was this: One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment, and that of our friends, we should coordinate it to make sure that we — we push back and give them more economic development. Number two, better education. Number three, gender equality. Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies…

The other thing that we have to do is recognize that we can’t continue to do nation building in these regions. Part of American leadership is making sure that we’re doing nation building here at home. That will help us maintain the kind of American leadership that we need…

We make decisions today… that will confront challenges we can’t imagine. In the 2000 debates, there was no mention of terrorism, for instance. And a year later, 9/11 happened. So, we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty…


We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space…

International Counterterrorism (Again)

Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads and they’re rushing to build a lot more. They’ll have more than Great Britain sometime in the — in the relatively near future. They also have the Haqqani Network and the Taliban existent within their country. And so a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state, would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and to us. And so we’re going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a more stable government and rebuild the relationship with us. And that means that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met…


We should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world.

International Counterterrorism (Again)

There’s no doubt that attitudes about Americans have changed. But there are always going to be elements in these countries that potentially threaten the United States. And we want to shrink those groups and those networks and we can do that.  But we’re always also going to have to maintain vigilance when it comes to terrorist activities. The truth, though, is that Al Qaeda is much weaker than it was…and they don’t have the same capacities to attack the U.S. homeland and our allies as they did four years ago.

I expect partisans of each candidate will complain I have obscured important differences.   In my judgment a narcissism of small differences is epidemic.   I have no interest in abetting the fever.  More interesting to me is — for good or bad — the considerable consensus that is articulated.

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Comment by Arnold Bogis

October 25, 2012 @ 12:46 am

Sir, impressive work. I had the sense that direct homeland security-related discussion was limited, if it existed at all. But you teased out what I suspect is the vast majority of relevant conversation.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 25, 2012 @ 1:40 am

Presidents have to make choices and prioritize their efforts. Sincerely doubt that either of these men will have HS as a high priority for their individual efforts.

What I do expect is intense efforts, perhaps unsuccessful, of Congress to improve its oversight of HS programs, functions, and activities.

I have concluded that we have been lucky not smart in the HS enterprise since 9/11 and have traded off historic values without much thought as to tradeoffs.

The world and foreign interests of the US will look much different by the 2016 election.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 25, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

Again prediciting a crusade against ISLAM if Romney wins! Two decades of US effort in MENA [middle east and north africa] have so far failed to stem radical Islam and in fact now looks as though Islam can only exist by periodic outbursts of violence against the Infidel as defined by the Quran.

I will be voting for the President despite my hope that he is eventually brought to justice for Crimes against Humanity–specifically unrestricted drone warfare.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 25, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

When the history of the Obama Administration is written the disclosures of the role of John Brennan will be schocking to many!
Examine closely the revelations over his drone kill matrix as discussed in WAPO!

Comment by Responsible Decision-making

October 31, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

With much Respect for William Cumming and his enlightened knowledge, while he might vote for this “Goldman Sachs WH” and the “Rev Wright-Obama pulpit” and barry Obama’s mentors, Frank Marshall, Bill Syers, Jew hater Said, and so many others and a “Chicago-Hollywood-Washington Expresss” so biased, so divisive so arrogant and condescending to the Judeo-Christian value sof this nation where this Wh has spent and soent from $10,6 trillion in budget deficit to obver $16 trillion and promised $20 trilliuon in deficit, it is a full “Benghazi Congressional Hearing” which I have called for since the first hours of the reported attack on our lock and key embassy and it is Hillary Clinton and barry Obama in direct – breach of faith – treason who should be held for – suspicion of treason —

“Treason I Shout and Shame on You I say” –

How dare they sit and watch our Ambassador and three brave Patriots be murdered and ordering all to – stand down – and to deny months and months of requests for increased security just so the WH and its leanings to backroom door discussions led by its senior Arab representative and apologies galore to the Arab world as Barry Obama bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia –

Enough of this charade and incompetence and outright murder for if it was possible for a Citizen’s Arrest of both Hillary Clinton and Barry Obama for their perpetuation in blatant lie…. standing shoulder to shoulder on taxpayer monies on pakistani television knowingly and intentionally stirring tension in the Middle East pointing to some – flick – few if any knew about and causing conflgration throughout the Middle East –

“Treason I Shout and Shame on You I Say” –

We as Independent Voters shall oust these scoundrels from the “entrusted” positions they pledged in oath and off to jail to serve their time for damning our nation so….

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”
Cape Cod, MA

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