Thursday, 23 April 2009

Aggressive ignorance is hurting the American image and a lot more than just image

There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland SecurityUnless it’s aggressive stupidity coupled with power. For this reason, aggressive stupidity exercised by Americans in positions of power is arguably the most dangerous in the world. Obama’s much-vaunted promises of change have unfortunately not taken effect. We still are faced with high-ranking American officials whose ignorance of the outside world and their own portfolios is absolutely devastating.

Take Janet Napolitano, Secretary for Homeland Security, for example. (You may have guessed that’s who I wanted to talk about all along.) She has gone on record equating the Mexican and Canadian borders, for starters. That’s not even comparing apples and oranges. That’s comparing Blackberries and oranges. The problems to the North and to the South are vastly different. To the South you have illegal immigrants flowing in; to the North you have congestion slowing down the world’s most vigorous trading partnership. Canadians are not crossing the border in isolated places hoping to find a better life in the US, at least not in numbers significant enough to matter. And those are probably neatly counter-balanced by illegal American immigrants in Canada.

On Monday, Ms. Napolitano took her foot and stuffed it into her mouth all the way up to her hip.

In an interview broadcast Monday on the CBC, Ms. Napolitano attempted to justify her call for stricter border security on the premise that "suspected or known terrorists" have entered the U. S. across the Canadian border, including the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack.

All the 9/11 terrorists, of course, entered the United States directly from overseas. The notion that some arrived via Canada is a myth that briefly popped up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and was then quickly debunked.

Informed of her error, Ms. Napolitano blustered: "I can't talk to that. I can talk about the future. And here's the future. The future is we have borders."

Just what does that mean, exactly?

Even Rush Limbaugh knows better. For the record, the 9/11 terrorists all had papers in order, issued to them by the American government, and not one of them entered the US through Canada.

She has since retracted the statement, claiming she was misunderstood. Judge for yourselves.

The furor began when Napolitano was asked to clarify statements she had made about equal treatment for the Mexican and Canadian borders, despite the fact that a flood of illegal immigrants and a massive drug war are two serious issues on the southern border.

"Yes, Canada is not Mexico, it doesn't have a drug war going on, it didn't have 6,000 homicides that were drug-related last year," she said.

"Nonetheless, to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it's been across the Canadian border. There are real issues there."

When asked if she was referring to the 9-11 terrorists, Napolitano added: "Not just those but others as well."

Misunderstood, eh? How many ways are there to understand "just" and "as well"?

Is it any surprise that Canadians are upset?

In February, the former Arizona governor--criticized as weak on security along her state's Mexican border during her term--ordered a review of 49th parallel security, saying the terrorist threat was greater there than on the Mexican border. Last month, she said Canada should be treated the same as Mexico--as if there were any real similarities.

As long as she repeats this rubbish, the corrections that follow are unpersuasive.

Canadian Ambassador to the U. S. Michael Wilson does his best to sow truth in hard soil, but this needs to be dealt with at the top. It is now for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to deal directly with Obama, to ensure the border remains open to visitors and convenient to trade.

Unchecked by higher authority, Napolitano's vaulting ignorance is capable of serious harm to Canada.

American friends have sometimes asked me where Canadian anti-Americanism comes from. There are a lot of answers to that question, some of them not too flattering to Canadians, but Napolitano’s shenanigans are an example of the kind of thing that creates a lot of ill will.

Will somebody please send the woman home to Arizona and find somebody competent to replace her? (So much for the stereotype of Republicans being rubes, and Democrats being urbane and sophisticated.) Anybody who believes for ten seconds that the Mexican and Canadian borders are in any way equivalent has no credibility. And she’s had considerably longer than ten seconds to catch on to that fact. If it hasn’t dawned on her in the months she’s held her position, there’s no hope of her ever understanding. This is a fundamental reality that she should have grasped at her very first briefing. It is one thing to be ignorant; it is another altogether to cling to that ignorance in the face of massive evidence to the contrary. And it is sheer insanity to give this kind of person the authority to act on their ignorance. The damage she can do to the American-Canadian trading relationship - and thus to the American economy - is unthinkable. We are, after all, the USA’s biggest trading partner, far eclipsing Japan, the European Union, and even China.

Yeah, I'm steamed. Sorry. And when you find somebody else, make sure it's somebody who has actually crossed the border at least once? Napolitano has flown over it, but has never set foot, or even car tire, in a Canadian border crossing. For crying out loud...

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