Leviathan Overlord

Photo by Jack GouldCongratulations to Congressman Christopher Cox. A self-styled champion of smaller, more efficient government and an articulate, if selective, adversary of bureaucratic bloat, the Newport Beach Republican will oversee the mother of all federal bureaucracies, the Bush administration's new Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

And who says Republicans lack a delicate sense of irony?

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) named Cox chairman of the just-formed Select Committee on Homeland Security. That body will provide congressional oversight of the bureaucratic leviathan, the largest new federal bureaucracy since the Department of Defense was breech-birthed in 1947. DHS will consolidate 22 federal agencies—including the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, Secret Service and Coast Guard—into one mega-department. By way of comparison, in 1995, there were approximately 371,789 non-civilian employees spread across 14 different cabinet offices; with 170,000 employees in DHS, this one department will dwarf every other cabinet office.

Leave it to the GOP to expand the size, scope and invasiveness of government beyond anything an honest liberal Democrat might have ever thought possible—or desirable.

Cox promised colleagues he'll "make our government more effective in the fight against terrorism." That's a noble, necessary effort, but how does it conform with the Chris Cox who (according to his 2002 campaign website) "has established himself as a leading proponent of freedom and economic prosperity by championing lower taxes, free enterprise and limited government"?

Some view Cox's willingness to take on what will likely prove a thankless job as evidence of his maturity. Within this group is a subset who believe the congressman will bring to the committee his Reaganesque commitment to smaller government, resulting in a less invasive DHS.

Conversely, it's possible the appointment of Cox is a White House ruse designed to lend credibility to congressional oversight of DHS—given Cox's credentials—when in fact no real oversight is intended. We'll have to wait and see: Will Cox help to rein in the excess powers granted to DHS? Or will he serve as a beard for Attorney General John Ashcroft and be party to the further diminution of basic civil rights?

The day before Hastert announced his appointment of Cox as Select Committee Chairman, the Washington Times ran a story about the two individuals being mentioned for the job—Cox and Representative Rob Portman of Ohio. A Hastert aide discounted the rumors, saying, "Neither of the men are [sic] interested in the job." Assuming the accuracy of the aide, sometimes first instincts are best.


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