Thursday, March 25, 2004

I haven't seen it myself, so I'm basing my opinion on the accounts of people who have, but everything I've read, seen and heard indicates that Richard Clarke's appearance before the 9/11 commission was a startling reminder of how grown ups are supposed to act. For one thing, he opened his testimony with an apology to the families of those killed: "To them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you. We tried hard. But that doesn't matter, because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask--once all the facts are out--for your understanding and for your forgiveness."

One of the nasty tricks in preventing terrorism is that your successes are quickly forgotten. In December of 1999, there was chatter about a possible terrorist attack in Los Angeles, and Clinton ordered daily meetings of the agencies involved, making preventing the attack their number one priority. It worked. In the summer of 2001, there was similar chatter about a coming attack, but nothing was done, and 3,000 people died. Clarke has been appropriately clear that he's not saying Bush is reponsible for the deaths on 9/11, or even that 9/11 could have been prevented. He is, however, saying that there is a lot that could have been done, but instead nothing was done. Go here and here for a little bit more detail. It'd be somewhere between ironic and tragic if the incompetence of the Bush administration gave them an aura of invulnerability on the issue of terrorism.

Oh, and then there's the "he's a partisan Democrat who's best friend works for the Kerry campaign" line of defense. The best friend in question would be Rand Beers, who also used to work for Bush, but quit in disgust and went to work for Kerry because, in his own words, "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out." Read this article on Beers from last June, and you'll see why he and Clarke are friends. My only question is who in the White House thought it would be a good idea to remind us all that Clarke's not the only one to quit the White House in disgust at their ineptitude in fighting terrorism.

Jesus, is there anything these people can do right?

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