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Jewish World Review May 22, 2002 / 11 Sivan, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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The Clinton failures | The Democrats, with Hillary in the lead, have blown it big time in their recent outraged flurry of questions about what Bush knew and when he knew it. A close examination of the memos Condalizza Rice discussed last week yields a clear, if unsettling answer: not a whole lot. All the president had to go on were generalized threat warnings about increased "chatter" including nothing more specific than the less than novel speculation that terrorists may hijack airplanes. Obviously, Bush could not have "acted" based on such limited information.

While the Democratic accusations seemed not to wound Bush, they may well exact a daunting toll on those who made them.

In over-reaching, the Democrats look like vicious partisans in a non-partisan environment. All the poll after 9-11 suggest that its major political effect was to drain America of any latent enthusiasm it may have had for partisanship. What the disgusting spectacle of a government shutdown and the Lewinsky scandal did not do to discredit party wrangling, 9-11 did. Voters refuse to let a serious joint commitment to protect the nation dissolve, in Washington, into finger pointing and recrimination.

By shattering the melody of bi-partisan harmony with the screeching cacophony of partisan accusation, the Democrats in general -- and Hillary Clinton in particular - have left themselves with a gaping vulnerability. The party of Clinton and the wife of Clinton seem also to have forgotten the admonition that those who dwell in glass houses should not throw stones and certainly not hurl boulders.

If Bush did not know much about Al Qaeda intentions before 9-11, why didn't he? The blame rests on his incumbency, then only five months old, but on that of his predecessor. After the 1993 Trade Center bombing, after the Cole, after the Riddyah barracks attacks, and after the bombings of US embassies, why was our intelligence on Al Qaeda's activities so pathetically limited? Was the most that the Clinton intelligence apparatus could generate in the way of information to protect the nation the kind of generalized threat warnings Bush got? Why did it not learn more from the intercepted computers of terrorists exposing plots to hijack airliners or the efforts to fly a hijacked plane into the Eiffel Tower? Why did we know so very little?

Even had Bush known about specific threats to hijack planes, what could he have done about it? The Clinton/Gore Administration dragged its feet on air safety and refused to implement common sense proposals to protect our airports against the obvious possibility of terrorist attack.

In the aftermath of the Olympic bombing of 1996 and the downing of TWA flight 800 (?) in the spring of that year, the Clinton Administration was alive with a flurry of proposals to increase airport safety. In polling in July of 1996, we examined four specific proposals to heighten air safety:

a. require photo identification for all air passengers

b. X ray all checked luggage

c. Hand inspect all carry-on luggage

d. Federalize airport security personnel.

As was the custom in the Clinton presidency, such polling usually presaged policy recommendations for executive or for Congressional action.

Not this time. Clinton decided not to take action on these ideas and, instead, named a commission, headed by Vice President Al Gore, to examine the safety of our airports and to report specific suggestions to improve it.

Gore labored and brought forth a mouse. His recommendations did not include any of the steps outlined above and amounted to little more than an informational exchange of airport safety procedures and a call for stepped up vigilance. Indeed, very few of his suggestions had anything at all to do with the menace of terrorism or with preventing a deliberate hijacking of American planes.

So, even had Bush received notification of the nature of Al Qaeda's plans, there was little he could have done, in the weeks before 9-11, to stymie them. Clinton and Gore had simply not left behind them the tools to permit an increase in airport security.

JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris