April 30, 2004

The 411 on the 9-11

If you had any doubts about the seriousness of the 9-11 Commission, harbor them no more: One-third of the Democrats on the commission — co-chair Lee Hamilton and former Sen. Bob Kerrey — skipped out of Thursday’s meeting with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, arguing that they had pressing prior engagements.

Excuse me? More pressing than talking in the Oval Office with the president and vice president, in an unprecedented information-gathering session designed to extract information that might help panel members suggest ways of preventing future terrorist massacres of Americans?! What possibly could trump that duty? In Hamilton’s case, it was hosting a luncheon featuring Canada’s Prime Minister, Paul Martin. Kerrey skipped out to beg money from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici.

Both guys could and should have picked up phones and uttered three words: “I’ll be late.” Instead, they sent America a message: We’re not curious; we’ve already made up our minds. That may not characterize fairly how they feel, but it certainly describes the impression they left.

Another note: The president is more charitable than I am on the topic of former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. He doesn’t think the Justice Department should have released information indicating that she drafted a Clinton-era rule that prevented government agencies from sharing intelligence information collected outside our borders with law-enforcement agencies that work within our borders — unless one could show that the subjects of the intelligence were guilty of serious crimes. (This was Janet Reno’s standard: You can’t indict unless you know someone is guilty despite the fact that you often can’t establish guilt without first obtaining an indictment.)

The Justice Department released additional documents Thursday indicating that the Clinton justice team rejected a plea from New York’s then-U.S. Attorney, Mary Jo White, to reconsider. Gorelick’s wall, as right-wingers are calling it, didn’t cause the September 11th killings, but it certainly made them more difficult to sniff out in advance.

The president’s unhappiness about the release at least makes him consistent: He doesn’t like to hand out much if any information about internal White House deliberations, including those conducted by previous presidents. This may explain why Justice Department officials have been releasing information in response to Congressional requests without seeking permission from the White House political office.

How to Honor Those Who Serve

No reputable adult in this country claims not to support the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, although it’s not hard to find folks who dismiss both operations as evil, craven, or naive. In fact, a fair portion of the journalistic and political establishments seem to be rooting for failure, while claiming piously that they mean no ill will toward soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines. Here’s a hint for those who hold the I-hate-the-the-war-but-love-the-troops crowd: If you root for failure, you’re rooting for American and Iraqi deaths. It’s a bit like the president’s 2002 State of the Union observation — either you’re with us or against us.