April 14, 2004
The Blame Game
Weblogger, tv talking heads, print pundits, Bush basher, and Bush supporters can go on and on in a never ending circle as to who and in what administration dropped the ball and not took terrorism seriously. We have the Gorelick memo that established "a set of instructions that will clearly separate the counterintelligence investigation from the more limited, but continued criminal investigation." This "wall" between counterintelligence and criminal investigation was only modestly lowered when John Ashcroft took over the Justice Department.
If the Sep. 11 commission didn't look like a partisan clay shooting club before, it certainly does now. Did Jamie Gorelick mention to anyone that she wrote that memo before accepting a spot on the commission? Did she think the memo would never surface, and did she take steps to hide its existence? In light of this new information, does she think she has enough distance from the inquiry to offer a useful, objective opinion?
At last night's press conference, a few reporters tried hard to get President Bush apologize for the Sep. 11th attacks. Bush didn't fall into their trap. The reporters were seeking a "gotcha" moment to paste across headlines and put at the beginning of all their new updates. Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report were just drooling for a cover showing Bush with his head down, looking somber and the words "I'm Sorry" in bold down the side. The dirty little secret (that isn't) about the news media is they're a form of entertainment. The all-news channels and the newspapers are fighting for the same attention as American Idol and Hellboy. A Presidential apology would have been big news and drawn lots of eyeballs. That's how the game works, and the reporters were just fulfilling their roles. Bush didn't give in because he knew that for the next seven months Kerry's campaign and the Democrats' 527s would pump out ads declaring "Bush Failed!" and use the President's own words.
To those who think President Bush should have "done something" to stop the attacks, go back to Sept. 10. The country wasn't on a war footing. The first WTC attack was years before. Out of sight, out of memory. There were occasional reports of U.S. planes taking out Iraqi positions to enforce the no-fly zone. The country was at peace and thought it was safe. That was the public's view and, not surprisingly, that extended upwards to our leaders. There was that wall between counterintelligence and criminal divisions, and I'm sure John Ashcroft was doing some things to break it down. However, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the number one priority for him, because the U.S. wasn't at war. Government only moves fast when there's a crisis. The Patriot Act got past so quickly (with most members of Congress not knowing what was all in it) because they had to "do something." That's also why we're stuck with the TSA.
This then begs the question: Should we have been at war? Looking back with unfair, 20-20 vision, the answer is an unequivocal yes. But that doesn't take into account the political constraints of the times.
"Ashcroft Strikes Back at Sept. 11 Critics"
"The Blame Game"