Today show co-host Katie Couric concluding an interview with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about his agency's response to the London bombings yesterday departed from the apolitical, unbiased questions she'd been asking to showcase Senator Hillary Clinton's criticism of the Bush administration's budgeting for railway security.
Couric: "I know about 90 percent of the budget for the budget for the Transportation Security Administration went to aviation security last year. Critics say the money needs to be distributed to protect our rail system as well, and Senator HIllary Clinton made the following comments last night. Let's listen and then I'll get your reaction."
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) from 7 July 2005: "And we got an assurance from Secretary Chertoff that this would be a high priority, that this would be included when the President's budget came for Homeland Security. But the fact is the President's budget calls for a $50 million cut."
Couric: "Is that appropriate, Mister Secretary, a $50 million cut given what happened in London yesterday and what happened in Madrid before that?"
Chertoff dismissed Clinton's claim as oversimplified: "Well, I have to say, Katie, I think that really understates the amount of money in the budget that's available for rail security. In fact, the President's budget talks about a dramatic increase in infrastructure protection, $600 million, and that would be available for rail security. It talks about billions of dollars in urban security initiatives, and part of that is available for rail security. In fact, one of the big points of the President's budget has been to move to a risk-based funding effort. And that risk-based funding effort will take account of the vulnerability of mass transit and consider our other vulnerabilities as well. So I think actually the President's budget is a very strong budget not only on mass transit security but on security across the board."