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Take Responsibility

Nice timing. a year of investigation, and they choose now to leak it, with the 9/11 commission’s report and the Democratic convention coming up. Admittedly, Sandy Berger made a Boneheaded mistake, but he did not attempt to rewrite history. The documents in question were never taken from the archive, and the whole “stuffing documents in the socks” thing has not so far been substantiated outside of the leak.

The usual congressional leaders came and and made dark pronouncements, accusing the Clinton National Security Adviser of watergate style theft and coverup. Cute. I wonder something: will the GOP feel this good about this kind of political manuever when the next high-casualty terrorism attack occurs, and the next investigative committee finds they didn't learn from the last one?

Serious charges require serious evidence. Where's the serious evidence? Most of the evidence indicates that Berger has been cooperative. The 9/11 commission has known for quite some time, and most likely has access to the originals. Not to mention the author of the documents in question: Richard Clarke.

AP Report

Even then, the Republicans have failed to answer certain questions: What precisely was covered up? Those investigating Watergate knew that what was being covered up was proof of the involvement of the White House Here, conveniently enough, it's some vague insinuation that the 9/11 commission hasn't heard everything. That the Democrats were trying to conceal their failures.

It's not the Democrats who have done the majority of the concealment, though. It took years to get this commission going, after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, the deadliest attack on the continental U.S. The president resisted it until it began to do political damage to him to resist further.

Then he calls it partisan, when its results start to contradict his story. Partisan. Let us look at the way the commission was set up: A Republican congress and a Republican president brought the commission into existence. Five Democrats do indeed serve on the commission, but so do five Republicans, who Bush himself likely appointed. Is there something wrong with this picture?

From the start, Bush has been trying to arrange things so that his people could escape blame and culpability for intelligence and policy failures. They've excoriated those who speak out against them who reveal the slightest bit of weakness on the part of the president, his policies, and their responses. If Hillary Clinton hadn't used a similar phrase years ago, they would probably be saying that there was a left-wing conspiracy to destroy the Bush presidency. Problem is, every time they try to stall investigators, every time they try to arrange things, the facts seem to go off their message. Even the Bush claim that he is strong on the War on Terrorism has been undermined by the new evidence.

A Commission practically handpicked to be friendly to Bush, is disagreeing with him and criticizing the forthrightness of the adminstration. A Commission led by Republican leaders can excuse Bush somewhat on intelligence failures but is absolutely scathing in its demolition of the evidence that was supposed to justify the Iraq war. The only thing left from the big scary case worth worrying about was Saddam's ballistic missile program, and the truth of the matter is that even then, we encountered next to none of the feared SCUDs he was supposed to have.

Of course revelations like this aren't healthy for campaigns. Bush greatly fears negative publicity in the press. He's done his damnedest to prevent unfriendly leaks , to smear and penalize whistleblowers, and to take much of the information about how our government runs into the realms of secrecy. To Bush, this is only wise, seeing as how so many would like to see him out of office, and he does not want to suffer his father's fate.

Unfortunately, this interest of his competes with our interest in a government capable of addressing it's errors and redressing the grievances of its citizens. Our system was not designed to entitle Bush to power regardless of his mistakes. It was designed, in fact, to remove the entitlement of erring politicians to their power, so long as they do not correct their mistakes and fail to serve the public's interests. Second chances are all well and good, but we can't wait forever for our officials and representatives to get their heads around their jobs. They must be ready immediately to take on their responsibilities

Bush had no reason to stonewall on creating the committee, nor on its revelations, no reason in the public interest, that is. If Bush was so bold and so courageous, he should have taken responsibility for the failure on the part of his government to prevent the disaster, whether or not it was clearly preventable. He should not have given anybody the opportunity to upstage him. It should have been Clarke who had to chance looking like a copycat, Not the man in charge of this nation. Being a leader means that the buck stops at you. It means letting go of one's prejudices to deal with problem. It means being a good leader to all Americans, not just those willing to re-elect you from party loyalties alone.

Bush fought so hard to become President. He should not complain when people expect him to take the responsibility that goes along with that position.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at July 21, 2004 12:17 PM