Friday, August 13, 2004

Electoral Elucidations: Bush: Pressured into Leadership

By: UnrepentantNewDealer

I was going to post in responce to Akerman's riff on Fahrenheit 9/11. I may yet get around to it, but right now I have something more substantive to post. This morning when I woke up at 10:15, I checked the Weather Channel, for I am a hurricane junkie as well as a political one. Hurricane Charley, which I have tracked since it was but a wee tropical low off the coast of west Africa, was a Category 2 hurricane headed for the west coast of Florida. At 2:00 pm, I checked up on Charley and found him a monstrous Cat 4 storm with winds of 145 miles per hour. It is bearing down on Akerman's old hometown of Ft. Myers even as I frantically type this. The latest is that the hurricane will cut across the Florida peninsula, strengthen offshore and batter into the Carolinas. Interesting times ahead in my neck of the woods! But as intimidating as this strongest hurricane to batter hapless Floridians since Andrew is, it is a weakling compared to the storm now exploding in Florida and in every corner of this great land: the battle for America's future and its very soul known as Election '04.

This is without a doubt the most important election in our lifetimes, the most important since 1932. For what is at stake is nothing less than the future of American democracy and standing in the world. By far the most important issue to the American people, according to numerous polls, is the economy. Thus the media ignores the sorry state of our economy under Bush and focuses on the War on Terrorism, supposedly Bush's strongest suit. (Thanks, "Liberal Media"!) But what the Republicans and pundits fail to realize is that Bush's prosecution of the War on Terrorism has been a series of almost unmitigated disasters from start to finish!

I have read two quite revealing books this summer: Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke, the man who did the most to fight against and warn about the dangers of Al Qaida in the 8 years leading up to September 11, and the 9/11 Commisson Report by the bipartisan commission of the same name. In retrospect it is obvious that the Clinton Administration did not do a good enough job allocating the resources necessary to fight Al Qaida. But as insufficient as the Clinton's Administration's responce was, they at least tried. The Bush Administration was asleep at the wheel when it came to fighting terrorism. Bush had just been inaugerated, when the intelligence services determined that the recent attack on the U.S.S. Cole was the work of Al Qaida. Clinton had authorized cruise missile strikes after the last Al Qaida attack, the embassy bombings in East Aftrica in 1998. (These strikes demolished a suspected bin Ladin-related chemical weapons plant in Sudan and the main terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. In fact, if not for the probable tip-off by sympathizers in the Pakistani intelligence service and military, Osama bin Ladin would have almost certainly been in the camp when the missiles hit.) According to Condolezza Rice, there was no responce to this act of war because the president was "tired of swatting at flies." One of the commissioners challenged her to name some "flies" the administration had swatted. How could he be tired of swatting flies if he never had? Outrageously, this terrorist provocation was allowed to go unpunished.

Clarke and outgoing Nation Security Advisor Sandy Berger warned the incoming admistration that the their number one priority must be Al Qaida and that nothing else even came close. On January 25, Clarke "urgently requested" an emergency Principals Committee meeting (which brings together all the leaders of the various agencies involved). On September 4, the administration finally got around to having this meeting, but nothing new or substantial came out of it, and Rumsfeld steered the meeting toward combating nonexistent "Iraqi terrorism", and away from Al Qaida. Too little, too late. The President's August briefing entitled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US", warning of aircraft hijackings, didn't stop the President from enjoying the rest of his month-long vacation at his ranch in Texas. The Administration repeatedly thwarted attempts to deploy the armed Predator drone to Afghanistan to spy on and annihilate terrorists, something it has proven very good at since 9/11. The 9/11 Commission found 6 missed opportunies to disrupt the 9/11 plot during the first eight months of the Bush Admistration, compared to four during the entire eight years of the Clinton Administration. Read the report for complete details; I highly recommend this book for every American. If we want to prevent future attacks we will follow the recommendations of this bipartisan panel.

Well, ok, so much for Bush's leadership before 9/11. But, you ask, wasn't his responce to the attacks positively great? Hardly. Senator Joe Lieberman sponsored a bill to create a new Department of Homeland Security. The Bush Administration, obsessed with cutting the size of the federal government, refused and appointed Tom Ridge to be the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, without any real power, budget, an agency to control, resources to do his job, or a seat on the Cabinet Due to public pressure and the outrage of the September 11 families, Bush relented and created the Department of Homeland Security, but he insisted on including a provision that stripped civil service protection and labor rights from tens of thousands of government employees--in the name of fighting terrorism of course! The Democrats in Congress, noting that the airlines had cut security to trim costs and maximize profits, thus enabling the 19 hijackers to slip through the security at three different airports, proposed the creation of a Transportation Security Department. Again Bush opposed it, but relented due to public pressure.

The families who lost loved ones in the attacks as well as every other American, deserved an independent bipartisan investigation into the attacks to find out how they happened, and what to do to prevent further attacks. The Bush Administration tried to block the creation of this commission. When that failed, Bush attempted to appoint Henry Kissenger chairman of the commission. Kissenger, infamous for his secrecy, would likely have kept the findings top-secret. Fortunately, again due to public pressure, and to personal reluctance to divest himself of money he had invested and chairman positions he had on the boards of various companies, Kissenger refused to serve and former Republican governor Thomas Kean of New Jersey was appointed chairman. He repeatedly complained of White House stonewalling and refusal to turn over relevant documents in a timely manner. Bush and Cheney refused to testify or let National Security Advisor Rice testify, either. They once again relented under public pressure. They refused to extend the May 2004 deadline of the commission, relenting to a July release date under--you guessed it--public pressure! Sensing a pattern here? On every matter of leadership, the Bush Administration was uncooperative and only did anything substantive after intense Congressional, Democratic, and public pressure, especially from the 9/11 families. On every matter, the Bush Administration had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing to protect America. Some leadership!

But, you say, surely the War on Terror abroad fares well, thanks to the valiant efforts of the Bush Administration? This is but the first of an ambitious new series of posts that I am entitling "Electoral Elucidations".(In case the meaning of the word eludes you, Webster's helpfully defines "elucidate" as "to make lucid or clear by explanation", something sorely lacking in the media and public discourse this election year.) In my next post I will address Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., and show how the Bush Administration's actions abroad not only threaten our victory in the War on Terror and the continued pre-eminence of America amoung nations,but also the essential liberties and God-given rights of the American citizen. By then, it should become obvious that the War on Terrorism is not Bush's stong suit, but his Achilles Heel, the chink in his armor. Future posts will make it clear that there is only one rational choice this year, John Kerry, and examine how a Kerry victory, looking increasingly likely, could come about. That's all for now.

In peace,

Michael J. Smith