Jewish World Review May 22, 2002 / 11 Sivan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | 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
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
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