U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., doesn't doubt for a minute that terrorists will launch another attack on the United States.
"It's not a question of 'if,'" Roberts said Friday. "The question is 'when?'"
Roberts, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said the United States was better prepared to "detect and deter" an attack than it was on Sept. 11. But, he warned, preparedness efforts were being slowed by self-serving politicians.
"A lot of old bulls think their turf is being scratched," he said during an afternoon meeting with the Journal-World editorial board.
As many as 16 committees have claimed a piece of the ongoing debate on terrorism and national security.
"That's way too many," he said.
Asked if he thought Osama bin Laden was alive, Roberts replied, "The truth is we don't know, but the presumption is that he is."
Roberts, a former Marine, said he was a long way from backing calls for a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"The first thing we've got to do is get the region stabilized," he said, referring to the Middle East. "All this let's-go-to-war talk is very premature in my opinion."
Roberts said he had little use for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. "Anyone whose people encourage a teen-age girl to take a bomb into a crowded building and kill herself and those around her is that's an act of evil," he said.
Roberts praised President Bush. "I think he's performed magnificently," he said, noting that pre-Sept. 11 concerns about Bush's abilities have not panned out.
"He may have had trouble remembering foreign leaders' names back then, but I can assure you he knows them all by heart now," Roberts said. "He's very focused."
Roberts said he planned to vote against the farm bill passed by the House Thursday.
"It'll be the first (farm bill) I've ever voted against," he said, calling the bill "so complicated" that farmers will spend hours in line, "waiting for someone at the FSA (U.S. Farm Service Agency) who can explain it to them."
He disagreed with those who've characterized the bill as a death knell for Freedom to Farm, a move to lessen farmers' reliance on government subsidies that Roberts championed in the 1990s.
"A lot of the principles of Freedom to Farm that is, letting the farmer, rather than government, decide when, how much and what to plant are still in there," he said. "Freedom to Farm isn't dead, (the bill) is more like Freedom to Farm-Plus."
Roberts said the bill would have little trouble passing the Senate.
"And the President will sign it," he said.