I guess you could say that these pre-9/11 warning stories are amounting to something of a bad press day for the Bush White House. I have to confess, though, that I have an unhelpful tendency to want to defend the administration rather than go on the attack.
The one thing I’m quite happy about is that this will take a good bit of the bloom off that pro-Bush, anti-Clinton war-on-terrorism swagger. Hell, it might even shame some pundits (ones who have weblogs and are picking fights with Howell Raines) into backing off a bit on the pro-Bush cockiness.
I will say this: these new revelations make the administration’s efforts to quash an investigation (Cheney’s call to Daschle, etc.) look EXTREMELY cynical (“if we have any investigation, the terrorists will have won!”).
One other thing: how long until someone looks super-close at that controversial September 11th picture of Bush now being hawked by the RNC for fund-raising purposes, and sees a little note in his vest pocket that says “Note to self: Ask Dick about the hijacking warnings about the Arab guy. Sam Laden? Ledeen? Does this have something to do with the tax cut too?”
Anyway, having said all that, in these situations I always come back to the Clinton rule: what would I think if Clinton were getting attacked in this situation. Of course, this doesn’t occur to most of the Bush boosters. But then they’re intellectually dishonest hacks and I’d rather not join them in their hackery. In this case, presidents get lots of information over the transom, lots of it that looks pretty scary. Most of it doesn’t happen. If any of it does and it comes out that you got a scrap of paper warning that something like this could happen, you know you will end up looking really, really bad. It’s a very tough situation.
Anyway, I’ve got to get to work. So more on this later. But all I’m saying is this. These jokers deserve lots of criticism for sitting on this info for like eight months or so. But let’s look closely at just what they knew, how many other things they were hearing at the same time, how much reason there was for these threats to stand out from the myriad of other ones that routinely get included in the president’s intel briefing. I’m totally ready to attack these guys for screwing up if they did. And they may well have. But let’s just wait and see.
Back to work. Saddam calls.