The Old Viking looks at the facts and they aren’t pretty so far as Bush and the Republicans are concerned:

The Old Viking looks at the facts and they aren’t pretty so far as Bush and the Republicans are concerned:

There is constant debate over Bush’s alleged failure to pursue an anti-terrorism policy in the first eight months of his first term. The (9/11 Commission report notes that the Bush administration had three (count them-three) meetings prior to 9/11. The first was in May, four months into Bush’s term and the third was the week prior. It has troubled me that no one is mentioning the Defense Department chartered. Commission on National Security/21st Century Report that was given to Bush in January 2001. (To the discredit of the New York Times, its reporter left the press session early claiming that no one would care about the report. I guess he read the administration’s mind.) This report, a two-and-a-half year bipartisan effort (Gary Hart and Warren Rudman chaired) called for many immediate security measures-among them was strengthening the cockpit doors on aircraft so that they could not be breached. At the time it came out, I read the executive summary and scanned much of the rest. The 156 page report (phase 3) can be accessed here.

While researching this I ran across this Salon interview with Gary Hart.  Excerpts with my emphasis added:

Sept. 12, 2001 | WASHINGTON – They went to great pains not to sound as though they were telling the president “We told you so.” But on Wednesday, two former senators, the bipartisan co-chairs of a Defense Department-chartered commission on national security, spoke with something between frustration and regret about how White House officials failed to embrace any of the recommendations to prevent acts of domestic terrorism delivered earlier this year.

Bush administration officials told former Sens. Gary Hart, D-Colo., and Warren Rudman, R-N.H., that they preferred instead to put aside the recommendations issued in the January report …. Instead, the White House announced in May that it would have Vice President Dick Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism …while assigning responsibility for dealing with the issue to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, headed by former Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh.
 
The Hart-Rudman Commission had specifically recommended that the issue of terrorism was such a threat it needed far more than FEMA’s attention.
 
In its Jan. 31 report, seven Democrats and seven Republicans unanimously approved 50 recommendations. Many of them addressed the point that, in the words of the commission’s executive summary, “the combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the U.S. homeland to catastrophic attack.”

“A direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter century,” according to the report.

The commission recommended the formation of a Cabinet-level position to combat terrorism. The proposed National Homeland Security Agency director would have “responsibility for planning, coordinating, and integrating various U.S. government activities involved in homeland security,”

The commission was supposed to disband after issuing the report Jan. 31, but Hart and the other commission members got a six-month extension to lobby for their recommendations. Hart says he spent 90 minutes with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and an hour with Secretary of State Colin Powell lobbying for the White House to devote more attention to the imminent dangers of terrorism and their specific, detailed recommendations for a major change in the way the federal government approaches terrorism. He and Rudman briefed National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on the commission’s findings.But in May, Bush announced his plan almost as if the Hart-Rudman Commission never existed, as if it hadn’t spent millions of dollars, “consulting with experts, visiting 25 countries worldwide, really deliberating long and hard,” as Hart describes it.

Bush announced that Cheney and Allbaugh would review the issues and have recommendations for him by Oct. 1. The commission’s report was seemingly put on the shelf.

Just last Thursday, Hart spoke with Rice again. “I told her that I and the others on the commission would do whatever we could to work with the vice president to move on this,” Hart said. “She said she would pass on the message.”

It was a struggle to convince President Clinton of the need for such a commission, Hart says. He urged Clinton to address this problem in ’94 and ’95, but Clinton didn’t act until 1998, prompted by politics. “He saw Gingrich was about to do it, so he moved to collaborate,” Hart says. “Seven years had gone by since the end of the Cold War. It could have been much sooner.”

Reading that Clinton didn’t act until 1998 led me on another search. ton.terrorism/” target=”_blank”>This is from CNN (July 30, 1996.) Excerpts and emphasis added:

“We need to keep this country together right now. We need to focus on this terrorism issue,” Clinton said during a White House news conference.

But while the president pushed for quick legislation, Republican lawmakers hardened their stance against some of the proposed anti-terrorism measures . . .

“The most important thing right now is that they get the best, strongest bill they can out – that they give us as much help as they can,” Clinton said.
 
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, emerged from the meeting and said, “These are very controversial provisions that the White House wants. Some they’re not going to get.”

Hatch called Clinton’s proposed study of taggants – chemical markers in explosives that could help track terrorists – “a phony issue.”

“If they want to, they can study the thing” already, Hatch asserted. He also said he had some problems with the president’s proposals to expand wiretapping.
 
“If they want to, they can study the thing” already, Hatch asserted.

One thought on “The Old Viking looks at the facts and they aren’t pretty so far as Bush and the Republicans are concerned:

  1. To begin, I must say that anything I or anyone (although you’ve obviously put forth a very well researched and thoughtful position Old Viking) can write or say at this point pales to the words put for by our voice, Keith Olbermann, this week (if you are reading this page I don’t need to tell you which words). Olbermann, President Clinton and others are setting an example for thinking people in this country to stand up.

    Having said that, almost any failure – such as the failure of our government to properly act on the recommendations of the Commission on National Security, or those that warned of the susceptibility of New Orleans (including Mr. Bill), to those that warned of the probable failure of the Iraq War, to those who warn of the parting out of international law – can be traced back to recommendations that, in hindsight, appears obvious. In most cases, there are conflicting recommendations that would be substantiated by different outcomes and it is impossible to address all good advise. What makes this particular failure (ok, I guess all these failures) more damaging is the inability of leadership to perform the simple act of saying “we were wrong for ignoring the recommendations of the experts we pay to advise us�. Just taking responsibility for mistakes made. But failing in these cases is not even the worst part of the administration’s transgressions.

    We can’t improve things if we don’t accept and learn from what we do wrong. This is especially true when our leadership is unable to accept that there are mistakes (shit – You can’t even accept responsibility for shooting your friend in the face). It has become unfashionable (maybe impossible) to hold leadership responsible. How can people be made to look at the obvious with objective eyes?

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