People who said they were glad George Bush was leading the American
response to terrorist attack are choking on their words. Recent events confirm that
the founders knew what they were doing when they provided for the president to be
chosen by the voters, as Al Gore was, and not the Supreme Court, as Bush was.
(Those founders were smart cookies. They didn't use jargon like "market-driven"
the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence either. Bush says we won't
stop squeezing the Cubans until they adopt "market-driven" reforms. Apparently
they'll have to turn their power plants over to Enron. If Bush demands "faith-based"
reforms, they'll have to take Jerry Falwell.)
We know now that the Bush administration received numerous warnings of
impending terrorist attacks, some arriving almost on the eve of the Sept. 11
disaster, and did next to nothing. Well, it did slip word to John Ashcroft, our
faith-based attorney general, and Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial aircraft.
Faith has its limitations. When Bill Clinton got a warning in 1999, he ordered an
attack on Osama Bin Laden's training camp. Congressional Republicans accused
him of picking on Osama for political reasons. Trent Lott hadn't developed an
interest in national unity at the time.
After the airplanes struck the towers, Bush spent the rest of the day darting
the country, maintaining distance from the crash sites, ostensibly on the
recommendation of security advisers. Bush's press secretary defended this
behavior by saying terrorists had targeted the presidential plane. This was a lie, it
turns out. There was no such targeting, at least none that our government knew of.
Anyway, an army of security advisers couldn't have kept President Clinton from
Ground Zero, and indeed former President Clinton showed up there before Bush did.
And now Bush seeks to profit from that awful day. With his approval, the
Senate Republican campaign committees are selling, for $150 apiece,
photographs of Bush on Air Force One Sept. 11, talking on the telephone. They
don't tell us what Bush was saying, but we can make a pretty good guess: "Is it all
right to come home now, Mr. Cheney?" It says a lot about Bush that he looks up to
Vice President Cheney, a notorious chicken hawk who hid from military service
when he was of draft age, but doesn't flinch from sending other people into combat,
or declaring unpatriotic anyone who criticizes the administration. (The founders
had the right idea about free speech, too.)
To use the deaths of 9-11 for political gain is contemptible. And this
is a man who
promised less partisanship in Washington.
Bush and Cheney will resist, but the most patriotic and nonpartisan thing
Congress, the media and the people can do is to demand a full and public
investigation of 9-11. Who knew what when? Did the FBI, the CIA and military
intelligence fail utterly? Does the blame belong higher?