Amateur Hour
May 21, 2002
By Jeremiah Bourque

O people of this land, ye are ruled by morons.

It has been quite a long time since I have seen such a spectacular display of political incompetence on the part of both parties, simultaneously. The White House's handling of the "They Knew" allegation rivals only the Democratic attack in infantility. As such, the credibility of the entire political landscape - something that Bush could have avoided, by keeping his nose held high, like Clinton would have attempted to do - is being further diminished.

Let's take the basic allegation. There were supposedly warnings about Al Qaeda airline hijackings well before 9/11. Nothing was done. The warnings were never told to the public, because as the Secretary of Transport, a certain Mr. Mineta, has explained, the administration, in such a situation, has an obligation to the airlines, not to the public. This rather spectacular arrangement of vowels and consonants has fueled a firestorm, set off by a rather small match touching the dried straw left by the emotional state of the entire nation, and in particular, Democratic activists. (You know who you are.)

The counter-argument began as simply saying, there was no specificity. More importantly, no one could have imagined that airliners would be used as missiles. This story implies that no one has read Tom Clancy's "Debt of Honor"; that the threat to a Genoan summit of an Al Qaeda-hijacked airliner smashing into it, well before 9/11, was dismissed out of hand and not deemed credible, and hence one could have imagined it might one day happen; and that no one who devises NORAD air defense plans has the slightest knowledge of the effects of exploding jet fuel, which implies that no one at NORAD ever fought against the Japanese "divine wind" (kamikaze) suicide bombers. This is does not imply malice, but rather a systemic negligence.

This in no way would imply that Bush himself - though he apparently has daily intelligence briefs reduced to one or two pages, which is substantially less, based on reports, than his own father reads - actually knew of any specific threat, or that the mere politicians put in charge of public safety actually understood the danger.

It went downhill from there.

We are now at a point where Diane Feinstein says that she was pleading for security to be tightened. (This is where my long memory starts grasping for bits and pieces. I actually remember that she was doing this sort of thing, demanding action against terrorism because she believed that an attack on US soil would happen.) Ari Fleischer did a Lexis-Nexis search showing Feinstein starting such talk at least two months before 9/11, therefore, they (the Democrats) knew. Forget that they were not occupying the White House. (I'm picking my words very carefully here.) The Democrats obviously were responsible, from the Clinton administation to the Senator from California.

The "heavy hitters" of the White House were thrust before cameras to say how they could not have done anything more. Laura Bush speaks of how the emotions of Americans are being preyed upon by those who would question the President, demonstrating disloyalty in wartime like bad, bad children. (Side note. The President is never included when the "heavy hitters" are referred to.) Even Laura, however, did not say, there was no information that could be acted on. She said that she was "very, very certain" that if there was such information, that anyone - Republican or Democrat - would have acted on the information.

So, by the nature of its own reaction, the administration has debased itself.

This is remarkable only because of the over-eager mass uprising by the long-suffering Democratic opposition to what appears to be an opening, but in reality, is not. After all, all that we know is that there was a warning; the White House said it was passed to the airlines, and the airlines say that is not so. Someone is lying; however, this is long after the tragedy, and is basically both sides trying to shield themselves. The emotional hot button of there having been warnings is not logically of any consequence. Folks, the US gets a lot of terrorist threats, as amazing as this may seem to the people who think everyone loves Americans - Americans love Americans, and generally don't ask what everyone else thinks, after all. This is how one may come to the conclusion that everyone loves Americans. When you don't ask, you can't find out.

So basically, despite the "evidence" pinning Bush to 9/11 being essentially proof of the failure of the same bureaucracies he routinely praises and defends from scrutiny at all costs, those organizations being the FBI and CIA, it's fair to say that no-one has come up with any proof that Bush, or his top people, knew.

They ought to have known.

They ought to have at least suspected.

But as far as can be proven, they did not know.

Therefore, this whole fuss is essentially much-suffering Democrats seeing an opening and rushing into it. Sorry, but it's not going to work, not without much worse evidence than this.

The only thing giving this story wings is the absolute incompetence in media management by this administration. Did Karen Hughes pack her bags yet? Sure seems like it.

I'll conclude with an easy example. There's word going around that the Clinton administration was given warning that Al Qaeda might use planes as missiles. Obviously, NORAD plans were not changed, or a bunch of other things that might have helped. However, no administration makes these sorts of analyses by themselves. The suggestion - and remember, that's all it was, a suggestion, speculation, guesswork - came through the same bureaucracies that did not tell the Bush administration that this was possible.

So, therefore, if this was true, and the Clinton administration did get a warning, these warnings were not shredded like Enron files. They could have been heeded later. If anyone ought to have suspected, then it ought to have been the intelligence services of the United States of America, the same ones that Cheney just the other day was defending, saying that any investigation into their failures would distract them from their duties, and quite possibly (even probably) lead directly to another successful attack on American soil.

We have a pinhead running the Justice Department, after all, whose changing of post-1939 Justice Department policy on the Second Amendment is to be used by John Walker Lindh in order to fight a gun charge, one of the few things that might have stuck to him once his confession is thrown out. (If it isn't it won't be because of the spirit of the law, in my humble opinion.) We have Mineta saying that the government has a greater responsibility to the airlines than to the public when it comes to terrorism, a charge that vile critics have levied against the FAA for years. We have the CIA in the middle of a love-fest by the son of a former director, and the former aides of that former director, Bush Sr.

To top it all off, the overseer of the FBI at Waco has again been promoted, this time to lead the FBI's core counterterror unit, which he commands, supersized, yanking as much power and responsibility as possible from the New York region. (What did the New York area people do, anyway?)

This is why the patriotic crap from the Bush administration hurts. It's preventing close analysis of failure, including failures that the current head of the FBI is quietly speaking about at public engagements. It's fair to say that we still don't know how Al Qaeda nailed America between the eyes, and we still don't know how we're going to stop them from doing it again. Most people ought to have a problem with that.

Unfortunately, Democratic politicians aren't helping. Unable to stomach demanding better management and more results, they're reduced to shouting into a teapot tempest, arguing that revelations that in no way prove the Bush administration's assertion of "no specific information" ought to lead to greater disclosure about warnings. Thus, by attempting to dodge failure and evade condemnation, the Democratic leadership is guaranteeing both.

Perhaps Democrats, as well, should be demanding more, but of their own leaders.

That the administration is engaging in spectacular mishandling of the media ought not be any consolation. The enemy has the high ground. These so-called shocking revelations will not reclaim that ground, while they serve to obscure more salient failures, ones that, given the government's complete rejection of turning a critical eye to itself for 9/11, are of far greater potential danger.

Before we go jump all around hoping to hear the right answer, let's get the question right.

Small note: check out this Slate article. Remember what I asked? Is the man who will not bend a traitor to democracy? Well, I think in this case, Jimmy Carter's being accused of sedition and aid and comfort to enemies of the United States. So is he a vile traitor who we should arrest and get one of Derschowitz's torture permits for, or should he be allowed to continue his treasonous activities and undermine the elected government of the United States of America? Given that George Bush, his wife, his vice president, and probably his dog, refer to this sort of thing constantly, perhaps some attention should be made to the issue, before someone really does go on trial.