The real story

Josh Marshall has a good post reiterating exactly what sensible people are hoping to get out of the 9/11 commission and specifically the PDB release Saturday here. It has been all to easy too make this debate into a ludicrous question of how the White House should have been able to prevent the 9/11 attacks. They are using this to their advantage true to form, rewriting the question to provoke the answer they want to give, i.e. "It was an unprecedented terrorist conspiracy that literally took the entire globe by surprise. No, we couldn't have stopped it."

Richard Clarke's apology resonated so strongly because government accounting for the intelligence failure on 9/11 has been so resoundingly dishonest. Bushco would rather meet an apology in hell than engage in earnest self-examination, and earnest self-examination has been in no uncertain terms the single most pressing need for national security policy since 9/11. It's not like anyone even asked them to resign, since after all, they had only been in office for 233 days, as Condi reminded us ad nauseum last Thursday. The concerned public, and the families of the 9/11 victims, only want some clear eyed accountability, and the administration has vehemently refused that wish from day one.

The remarkable thing about the whole mess is that if the administration had been playing a running game of defense and concession at the same time they had launched their massive offensive, they would never be confronting these headaches 6 months from election day. The Democrats would be neutralized beyond anyone's wildest dreams and questions about 9/11 would be ancient history except for the crazies and conspiracy theorists.

Only time will tell if this gamble bought the payoff it intended, and, obviously, I hope it doesn't. But if only to prove that governments must be able to navigate the tricky waters between failure and success, let's hope the political damage from the WH's shameless equivocation this week inflicts some lasting wounds.


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