Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Clinton's poor judgment

Obviously, the 9/11 attacks changed many things. For me, like many others, one of the consequences of them is that people, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, are given a bit of a pass for not realizing beforehand the seriousness of the threat that we faced. The benefit of 20/20 hindsight after an event like that will make lots of people look bad in ways that can be pretty unfair.

So I, similar to others, had hoped that we could put these questions behind us. They serve no useful purpose, and distract us from the important issue of focusing on what we are going to do moving forward. Alas, some are not content to let sleeping dogs lie. The latest chapter is the interview President Clinton did with Chris Wallace over the weekend. Wallace asked why he didn't "connect the dots" and do more to deal with Al Qaeda when he was President.

What Clinton should have done was say that we did what we thought was right at the time, but now in the post-9/11 world we realize that some of our operating assumptions were wrong, and that a different approach is needed. That would have been gracious, and let the issue pass. Instead, he attacked.

The problem with attacking is that it reopens the issue. Now, predictably, people are going to start paying attention to what he actually did and said. Was there really a plan to invade Afghanistan? Did we really need the FBI/CIA to "certify" Bin Laden's guilt? Was there a "comprehensive strategy" in place? What did Richard Clarke actually say in his book? All of this could have been avoided with a "we were all wrong" mea culpa, but that apparently was not to be.

This is a terrible fight to have as a nation, and I'm pretty sure it is a lousy political fight for the Democrats to pick as well. Anyone who thinks that the gathering storm, if you will, wasn't gathering well back in the 1990s (as opposed to somehow emerging with a vengeance in Bush's first eight months in office) is either disingenuous or nuts.

If it is true that the Democrats generally do poorly politically when elections are focused on security concerns, does it really do the party much good with the great middle of American politics to remind them how poorly they did operationally when last they ran things. I think not.

UPDATE: David Frum reviews some of the 9/11 Commission Report, while Captain Ed publishes an update to his earlier post and concludes with this:
"We have now had a week of this debate. Does anyone feel any safer because of it?"
Also check out this article by Richard Miniter.

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