Let’s think a move or two ahead…

April 11, 2004

Matthew Yglesias (link), pointing to the following passage from this week’s Newsweek/MSNBC poll (link):

Half (52 percent) of all Americans are more likely to lay the blame with the FBI and CIA for intelligence failures leading up to 9/11 and only a quarter (25 percent) of those polled think lack of focus by the administration played a more important role than those failures.

opines that:

That suggests an opportunity for the Kerry campaign to me — roll with the punch and accept the theory that the FBI and CIA are mainly responsible and ask why the president hasn’t held any of them responsible. Heads should have rolled.

I’d humbly suggest that the Kerry campaign should be thinking a move or two ahead before it starts criticisms along these lines. In this day and age, all criticisms must be done in full awareness of the foolish consistency that’s the hobgoblin of the little minds that comprise an alarmingly large portion of the press and political hackdom. In regard to the case at hand, it is incredibly likely that there will be some terrorist attack on American soil between 2005 and 2009. Hence, if Candidate Kerry’s criticism comes in the blunt form that any terrorist attack on US soil proves either:

1) the top leadership of the CIA and/or FBI is utterly incompetent,


2) the Cabinet level advisers are utterly incompetent,


3) the President himself is utterly incompetent,

… then much of the press and political hackdom will happily (and perhaps rightly) spout “Hypocrisy! Hypocrisy!” if a President Kerry does not immediately accede to the massive Republican uproar for mass resignations—including his own—that would almost assuredly follow any terrorist attack on US soil during his watch.

So if I were Kerry I would calmly and methodically say something along the lines of:

” ‘To err is human’, and unfortunately when you’re Commander in Chief, to err means Americans die. That is an inevitable and unfortunate fact of life. But that doesn’t mean a President is off the hook if some disaster happens. On the contrary, it means a President has an obligation to be diligent and careful every second of his term. And this President has been anything but diligent and careful. From his complete disregard of all the expert reports on Iraq from the career professionals in the military, in the State Department, and in the intelligence agencies that has led to the undermanned invitation to anarchy we see unfolding today to this fiasco we’re only beginning to fully see surrounding the terrorist warnings in Summer 2001 where the President was apparently placated by rote assurances that the FBI was looking into these grave issues… so placated he happily spent a month bass fishing on his man-made pond on his ranch right after reading the August 6, 2001 PDB… et cetera…” (Perhaps he could end the peroration with some big line that: “Under Harry Truman, the Oval Office held a sign saying ‘The Buck Stops Here’ as a reminder that the President must devote every fiber of his being to double- and triple-checking the work of the many patriots who work for him, but now the Oval Office has a sign saying ‘Gone fishin’ “)

And if I were Kerry, I’d level my criticism at CIA Director Tenet or FBI Director Mueller only if similarly specific and embarassing charges of being asleep at the wheel could be made, although even then I’d take into account how popular these directors are with their respective agencies. [On that note, I have a sense that FBI Director Mueller is more vulnerable than CIA Director Tenet, if only because Director Tenet at least has had a chance to prove his concern to his subordinates though his sub rosa push-back campaign against the Bush Administration on the Iraq intelligence and Valerie Plame matters, whereas Director Mueller seems to have engaged in or at least allowed a campaign of intimdating FBI whistleblowers (link) ].

2 Responses to “Let’s think a move or two ahead…”

  1. CSTAR Says:

    Two many worlds? Too few I think. This is OT though

    Perhaps if I were Kerry, I would be hoping I could be somebody else at this point. This Sunday morning I listened to some of the interviews (McCain Biden)on MTP FTN etc. Not encouraging. The assertion “we can’t fail militarily” or variants thereof, is not a strategy, particularly if there is no acceptable military solution in Iraq. Moreover, repeating this assertion doesn’t make the problem different (i.e., using a mathematical simile it’s still the same partial differential relation), it just seems to diminish the options (e.g. the set of acceptable solutions), limiting them to unilateral military ones.

    Congrats on your new blog.

  2. Aaron jorgenson Says:

    >”But that doesn’t mean a President is off the hook if some disaster happens. On the contrary, it means a President has an obligation to be diligent and careful every second of his term.”

    On the contrary, it means the President can continue to sleep the watch on his second term. That’s what he has (disposable) people like Rice for, people who resign to “spend more time with their families” after BushCo wins re-election.

    Kerry who? Also ran he is. Same for St. Ralph and Libertarian wanna be. Take the blue pill. Sleep is a wonderful apertif.

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