WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
As everyone in Washington focuses 20/20 hindsight on the Bush administration's actions prior to Sept. 11, 2001, Gregg Easterbrook (tnr.com/easterbrook.mhtml) explored what would have happened if President Bush had taken the necessary measures to prevent the attacks.
Imagining a scenario in which the president had taken preemptive action against Afghanistan and against suspicious individuals in the United States, Mr. Easterbrook wrote: "Reaction was swift and furious. Florida Senator Bob Graham said Bush had 'brought shame to the United States with his paranoid delusions about so-called terror networks.' British Prime Minister Tony Blair accused the United States of 'an inexcusable act of conquest in plain violation of international law.' White House chief counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke immediately resigned in protest of 'a disgusting exercise in over-kill.' Bush justified his attack on Afghanistan, and the detention of 19 men of Arab descent who had entered the country legally, on grounds of intelligence reports suggesting an imminent, devastating attack on the United States. But no such attack ever occurred, leading to widespread ridicule of Bush's claims. Speaking before a special commission created by Congress to investigate Bush's anti-terrorism actions, former national security adviser Rice shocked and horrified listeners when she admitted, 'We had no actionable warnings of any specific threat, just good reason to believe something really bad was about to happen.'"
The alternate history ends with President Bush impeached and removed from office: "Speaking briefly to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before a helicopter carried him out of Washington as the first-ever president removed by impeachment, Bush seemed bitter. 'I was given bad advice,' he insisted. 'My advisers told me that unless we took decisive action, thousands of innocent Americans might die. Obviously I should not have listened.'"
9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick has been pounding members of the Bush administration for their failure to prevent the terrorist attack. Bloggers are now accusing her of having a conflict of interest. Andrew McCarthy wrote on National Review Online (nationalreview.com): "Commissioner Gorelick, as deputy attorney general-the number two official in the Department of Justice-for three years beginning in 1994, was an architect of the government's self-imposed procedural wall, intentionally erected to prevent intelligence agents from pooling information with their law-enforcement counterparts. That is not partisan carping. That is a matter of objective fact. That wall was not only a deliberate and unnecessary impediment to information sharing; it bred a culture of intelligence dysfunction. It told national-security agents in the field that there were other values, higher interests, that transcended connecting the dots and getting it right. It set them up to fail. To hear Gorelick lecture witnesses about intelligence lapses is breathtaking."
Many Democrats are worried about former President Clinton's memoirs overshadowing current presumptive nominee John Kerry's presidential campaign. Mickey Kaus (kausfiles.com ) is not one of them: "John Kerry does best when he's exposed to the voters least! His optimal approach is to let Bush stew in the Iraq mess while he remains offstage, an attractive unknown. Any other strategy is a triumph of vanity over recent experience. If I were a Democrat-oh wait, I am a Democrat-if I could keep Kerry in a sealed steel shipping container until November 1, I would."
THE FIGHTING SULLIVAN
For those of you following the up-and-down roller-coaster ride of Andrew Sullivan's opinions about Iraq (Andrewsullivan.com), on April 13 he reached his "blame the president for the reconstruction" phase: "There were never enough troops to occupy Iraq. The war plan might have been brilliant, but the post-war plan has obviously been a failure. We needed more force and we needed more money sooner. The president has no excuses for not adjusting more quickly to this fact: he was told beforehand; he was told afterward; but he and the Defense Secretary were too pig-headed to change course. I still favor the war; but I cannot excuse the lapses and failures of the administration in the post-war."