Monday, July 26, 2004

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Thanks for reading, Karl!!

Last week, when the 9-11 Commission report came out, I offered some free advice to Karl Rove: "Karl, tell Bush to own this report. Make it clear to the American people that he gets it, and takes the issue seriously."

Mike Allen reports in today's Washington Post that someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. got the message:

President Bush plans to begin making decisions about restructuring the nation's intelligence machinery within days and may enact some changes by executive order or regulatory action without waiting for Congress, White House officials said Sunday.

Aides suggested for the first time that despite the opposition of some in the administration, Bush is headed toward backing some variation of the Sept. 11 commission's call for a national intelligence director who would report directly to the president. Some White House officials have questioned whether the intelligence director would be considered independent if the position were under White House control. Aides said Bush is considering mechanisms to make the job less political, such as a term that does not overlap the president's....

The urgent pace, and the White House's willingness to discuss it, reflects the realization by Bush's aides that he is now vulnerable to charges that he could be doing more to protect the nation against terrorism, when claiming leadership on the issue was central to his reelection strategy, Republican advisers said.

Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry released his plans for intelligence reform six days ahead of the commission report, and he plans to argue at the convention that he would be more effective than Bush at guarding the nation against terrorism....

The White House, which had initially responded by saying Bush would take the recommendations under advisement, is facing pressure from commission members of both parties, who are making the rounds of talk shows to say that swift work is needed and that another attack is probably coming. Republican leaders in Congress once had said they would not get to the matter until October, but said Friday that they will hold hearings in August, between the two political conventions.

Bush's aides said that the White House staff worked over the weekend to figure out what it could do on its own, and that it was looking for changes that would not cost money and thus require authorization from Congress. Specifically, the White House is looking at the commission's call for the creation of incentives for agencies to share intelligence about transnational terrorism, with the report saying the " 'need to share' must replace 'need to know.' " The White House contends the president has already taken action to tighten access to ports, airports and borders, and to crack down on terrorists' funding sources. But the commission report says more must be done, and Bush's aides said announcements may be made in those areas.

Bush's aides said that the panel's most ambitious recommendations, including creation of the counterterrorism center and national intelligence director, are likely to require approval from Congress. But with Republicans controlling both chambers, Bush's endorsement could prod action before the Nov. 2 election.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is to arrive at the ranch on Monday to work with Bush on his response to the report. Last week, Bush directed White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. to convene a task force of national security and homeland security officials to work on intelligence changes.

Thank you, Mr. Rove.

[Er, you do realize that lots of other people proffered this advice, right?--ed. Yeah, but did any of them use as many exclamation pointsas I did in their message? No, I didn't think so.]

posted by Dan on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM


Oh boy! Bush (or maybe Karl) shows his command of issues by cutting and pasting recommendations from a big report into a bill of his very own! What a clever fellow! Bet he could turn it into a powerpoint bulleted list, too, if he had an hour or two

I'd feel better about the man who is CoC if there were some evidnce of engagement with the issues presented in the report -- some criticism of idea one, praise of idea two -- You know, something beyond "Jeepers, my poll numbers are frightening me again -- better do something. Hmm, let's fling all this stuff in a bill."

To "make the report your own", you have to manifest some evidence that you have some nodding aquaintance with the contents. A speech would be nice. A press conference, better.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

Does this make you a Bush administration Advisor, Dan?

Looks geat on a resume, ya know.... unless of course you plan working in Journalism, or perhaps the Tides Org...


posted by: Bithead on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

Hokay, typed my irritation just a little too fast. Looks like the complaint I made above applies to Kerry more than Bush. The Bushies are actually working on the report.

I guess I feel that if someone is taking a serious report seriously, they aren't going to just say...looks fine, adopt it. they are going to study it, refine it, talk about it, then make proposals. If you accept a report in toto, it either means you didn't read it, didn't understand it, or don't really care about it.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

I read most of the commission report this weekend, and I strongly recommend it. Don't skip ahead to the recommendations, since they are unfortunately the weakest part of the report. I still think the commission did a great job.

Richard Clarke is the hero of his own book, perhaps not surprisingly, but the interesting fact is that he is plainly the hero of THIS book as well. Neither the Clinton Administration nor the Bush Administration heeded his excellent advice. Shame on both administrations for that.

posted by: Arjun on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

One other point, lest anyone wrongly assume that I praise Richard Clarke only because he is a critic of the Bush Administration, is that another Bush Administration critic, General Anthony Zinni looks very, very bad in the commission report.

posted by: Arjun on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

The commission report said the main problem was "group think". I for one fail to see how rearranging the organizational blocs or creating an intelligence ctzar will help with this problem. The idea of an intelligence ctzar has been proposed everytime there has been an intelligence failure for the last 30-40 years.

Historically, the primary argument behind the CIA being independent was that they were not part of an organization charged with implementing policy so they could better critize or be more objective about policy. Cosequently, they were more objective and less likely to suffer from "group think". How do these proposals deal with that problem?

posted by: spencer on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

Hokay, typed my irritation just a little too fast. Looks like the complaint I made above applies to Kerry more than Bush. The Bushies are actually working on the report.

AM... my estimation of you ust went back up a notch.
Keep at it; you'll find something of a pattern there, I suspect.

posted by: Bithead on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

There's a silly little hit-piece in National Review by some Congressman named J. D. Hayworth excoriating Richard Clarke for a very understandable misjudgement (trusting the U.A.E.) which did negatively impact the likelihood of killing UBL.

Surely the NOT understandable misjudgement of the Washington Times, which published a leak about UBL's communication system, with worse effects, deserves far greater criticism.

posted by: Arjun on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

As I said earlier on this board, a positive Bush administration response to the Commission report could happen. I have to say that attempting to do executive branch reform without recalling Congress is not the way I would handle this, though.

Call Congress back if you need to. It won't be doing anything more important than this in August, and politically having Congress in town to discuss fighting the war on terrorism keeps media attention on the administration's response to the 9/11 Commission report, not the Democrats' criticisms of the administration.

But that is what I would do. I have no idea what Bush will do. His history suggests the strong likelihood that he will attempt to take steps that do not involve players he cannot control, but the political stakes are much higher now, so the history may not be a reliable guide.

posted by: Zathras on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

This campaign feels much like 1948 in a lot of its dynmamics. (Bush is no Truman, but, boy, does Kerry seem like a reincarnation of Dewey!) So bring back Kerry and Edwards from the election trail to push for all the pretty words on terrorism I am sure are sitting in the Democratic platform.

Hmmm. Is Bush that bold? Maybe. It'd tend to keep the foreign policy focus off of Iraq -- something Bush needs to do to win.

I'd like the idea, if I were supporting Bush.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

... and my estimation just went back down, again.

AM, you, of anyone in here, oughta know better... that it's not good policy, as a rule to accept the advice of people who want you to lose. This this case, it's no different... The truth is, Iraq is a far stranger plank than you apparently suppose, particulalry when taken with the rest of the middle east... and it's the one argument Kerry simply cannot win.

posted by: Bithead on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]


When the news is talking frequently about Iraq, the news is bad. Blame it on media bias, if you will, but this is nonetheless true. The only way Iraq looks "positive" is when we pull our troops out and chaos does not ensue. This is not something Bush is going to do between now and November (and I am glad of that, thank you very much.) Bad Iraq news takes a toll on Bush's numbers.

Bush tends to poll well on Homeland Security and "who will wage the war best on terrorism". Taking the 9/11 report seriously, showing a sense of urgency about the report's findings, calling a special session of Congress to deal immediately with the 9/11 comission's "concerns" makes the debate about terrorism, about specific proposals, and NOT about Iraq, no WMDs, past sins. It also shines a bright light on those members of the senate whose presidential campaign obligations might otherwise keep them from attending votes.

The downside -- the proposals may stink and the President, by putting such emphasis on these things, may make what he has done thus far look inadequate, and, perhaps, freak the nation out. That's something Rove and company would have to weigh.

(BTW, Iraq indeed seems to be a stranger plank than most of us oever managed. Out of small typos, mighty truths grow...)

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

Ok, Appalled Moderate, the Kerryesque flip-flop was pretty funny.

If Bush takes the Drezner approach, he steals this issue right back from Kerry, who hugged this report to his heart (but hadn't read it) in this NY Times interview:

Mr. Kerry said he had skimmed parts of the report overnight and found at least two dozen proposals that could be adopted through presidential prerogative, saying, "I would act with great haste."

"If I were president today, or yesterday, I'd be appointing one person in the White House responsible for liaison with the Congress and the agencies immediately to implement immediately the vast majority of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission," he said.

"I regret that many of these have not been put in place over the course of the last few years," Mr. Kerry added. "They would have made America a great deal safer."

posted by: Tom Maguire on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]


That's what I get for typing my original reaction, before reading the entire article -- mocked by other bloggers and forced into an embarassing correction. Maybe the New York Times will give me a job, so I won't have to admit my mistakes.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

Or, the Democrats.

You seem to be discounting the idea that there are 90 days between now and the election, and there is yet a republican convention to be seen. You're quite right, the press has been playing the good news out of Iraq down. which is one reason why the Democrats are trying as best they can to latch onto blogs... partial control of that market.

But the story here, really is that the Republcians will win this thing to the degree that they can get their message out... and the conevntion seems a good time to do that. Meantime, if I'm Rove and company, I'm sitting back and letting the Democrats dig themselves in... the easier to bury them in their own sauce in another month.

posted by: Bithead on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]


Since the Dem strategy seems to be to sit back and let the GOP dig itself in, under your strategy, there's going to be a whole lot of sitting between now and November.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

Kerry's last comment is stupid. How many attacks have we had here since 9/11? He tries to make it seem like Bush has done nothing at all. The Commission mentioned we have stopped attacks from happening since 9/11 so clearly Bush has done a bunch of things to make us safer. We need to look forward not backward.
Sometimes I don't know how Kerry can say some of the things he does with a straight face as if we don't pay attention to what goes on.

posted by: Karen on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

I understand the point about avoiding advice from opponents, but I'm arguably not much of an opponent, so perhaps President Bush ought to read the 9/11 Commission Report and then admit to the American people that he was not sufficiently focused on the al Qaeda threat prior to 9/11/01. This would allow him to make a powerful argument for reaffirming his leadership: "9/11/01 changed America, and changed me. On that day, defeating al Qaeda terrorism became the focus of my Presidency."

posted by: Arjun on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

And you honestly thihk anyonen thinks it wasn't?

posted by: Bithead on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

"When the news is talking frequently about Iraq, the news is bad. Blame it on media bias, if you will, but this is nonetheless true. "

The news media is biased on Iraq, sure.

There are so many positive developments in Iraq regarding political development, economy, and even security (like recent actions where Iraqi police are rounding up large numbers of criminals and terrorists, engagements were coalition and IP are whipping terrorist butt, etc.)

Go here for the whole story:

Liberating Iraq blog

We are not only winning, but that we HAVE ALREADY GONE A SIGNIFICANT PART OF THE WAY TO VICTORY: Removing a tyrant; exposing a $10 billion corruption scandal that fed terrorists; ripping out a part of the WMD trade network (including AQ Khan & Libya, partly as a result of Iraq war); creating a transition constitution and new legal framework; interim Government, Iraqi national convention soon, and elections by early next year are on track; attempted insurgency failed and security steadily improving despite a determined terrorist enemy trying to stop it.

Last but not least: Lives of Iraqis significantly better. Except for Saddam and his cronies. But ending the rule of a genocidal dictator and bringing him to justice is a tremendous accomplishment.

Bush's bold and courageous decision to liberate Iraq despite risks and uncertainties - and to do it for our national security and for the sake of the future of Iraq and the Middle East - is the most praiseworthy of many good decisions and actions by Bush.

posted by: Patrick on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

"Richard Clarke is the hero of his own book, perhaps not surprisingly, but the interesting fact is that he is plainly the hero of THIS book as well."

I got that too, having read the report cover to cover (good read, better than other govt reports!).. but it STILL makes the Clarke who testified in March look bad and like a liar.

I think the 911 Commission 'shaved' the story in places to protect certain commission members - in particular their CYA of Gorelick's memo being "misinterpreted" etc. I think that since Clarke had terrorism as his job and was a big source for the commission, he comes out looking good, just as Woodward's sources always look best in his books. But there are holes:

FIRST - Clinton administration hemmed and hawed and cogitated but in the end DID NOTHING to kill Bin Laden, disrupt AQ, etc. from August 1998 to 2001. This is not to indict the pre-9/11-thinking of the Clinton admin, although Berger/Reno/Half-bright looks foolish and wimpy, worrying more about side-effects than with stopping terrorists; and clearly Tenet either is miscommunicating or not on the ball in a few cases; Clinton concerned about other things, not focussed.

Definitely pre 9/11 thinking. Only Clarke - the hero - knows better! ... BUT, if you read closely, you find out Clarke is the one linking Sudan VX factory (or aspirin factory) to Iraq. hmm. He's making proposals that dont fly with Berger. It was CLARKE'S JOB to do something and that something didnt get done. Why didnt he at least try to respond to concerns of others, get them to 'get it'. he's part of a team that didnt do what was needed... So why is he the hero and not a goat here?

SECOND - Millenium threat. Clarke and 911 commish said it was great for sharing data, etc. Problem is, the activity didnt really crack any case. The report notes that: the perp for the west-coast millenium was caught by an alert border guard, not due to any high-level activity; this was not even an AQ direct attack.

THIRD - Clarke made a big deal in March about how Bush administration ignored his warnings in summer of '01 and his proposals. He comes off as a liar on this score, as overall evidence shows that in terms of strategy to take out Bin Laden and/or taliban, Bush administration, within 8 months, were ready to do far more than Clinton was willing to do in the last 4 years of his administration (since the time Bin laden declared war on us).

"Neither the Clinton Administration nor the Bush Administration heeded his excellent advice."

This is NOT true. In May 2001, Clarke moves on to something new, but the Bush administration is readying FAR MORE AGRESSIVE plans against the Taliban and AQ by the summer. "Rice got it" was a comment from one panel witness wrt Rice's understanding of how serious the terrorist threat was and how we needed to take out AQ. Bush administration wanted to fit the response to a regional and overall strategy, Clarke didnt like that, but in fact his proposals were TOO TIMID - the Bush administration by Sept 4, was ready to confront the Taliban head-on, give up bin laden or we would support the northern alliance to depose them.

The Bush admin everything they could to begin to change the strategies and policies in the right direction, the only problem was speed in implementing it. key Bush admin officials werent even confirmed until the summer of 2001, and this was seen as a long-term threat, not an urgent one.

The claims of Clarke in his politicized testimony are exposed as misleading and one-sided. The Aug 6 2001 PDB read like a 1998 PDB just with different verbiage. Nothing in it was actionable intel for senior administratio to act on, it said FBI had 70 investigation - so the memo basically was telling Bush "we're on the case" and Bush read it that way. moreover the 9/11 plot was so well advanced by January 2001 that only law enforcement or immigration could have stopped it, and only then if they got lucky. We didnt get 'lucky' except with Moussai, and then the stupid "WALL" stopped critical leads from getting shared that could have alerted us on other key hijackers.

The last Clarke slander that was debunked: Bush was NOT obsessed with Iraq, turning down Tommy Franks' Iraq contingency plans in summer of '01. For Clarke to write in his book that he *knew* there were no Iraq-Al Qaeda links when bush asked about it after september 11, yet *he* in 1998 had concluded that Iraq had assisted Al Qaeda on Weapons development, and had on other occasions in memos pointed to Iraq - Al Qaeda links (including the Iraq offer to give Bin Laden safe haven as a reason for US to strike Bin Laden 'before he slips away') is a HUGE hole in Clarke's credibility.

Clarke let himself get signed up as a Bush-basher, and threw his credibility out the window in process, contradicting statements and actions he made before; the trail of memos the 911 commission reported on tells a different story from the one he sold the public this spring.

The Bush admin is vindicated in this report. Pre-9/11, the Bush administration was readying itself to take on a long-term terrorism threat and to reshape the military for the 21st century. ...

After 9/11, Bush within *days* had made a decision and set a strategy to take on the Taliban and AQ, and communicated that to the nation on Sept 20, 2001. And accomplished the Taliban's defeat within months. His other actions - the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Dept - were praised by 911 commission as necessary responses to the 9/11 attack and threats to our homeland.

posted by: Patrick on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

Let's put some history together with this report, shall we:

Graham said National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told him the Bush administration is willing to put off reorganization of the intelligence community until next year, after the joint committee has finished its inquiry. Legislation to create the new homeland security department is on a fast track in Congress, but Graham and Shelby said they want to hold off making decisions about the department's intelligence component."

Their report was submitted Dec 2002 with "basic reform" recommendations for Congress and the Executive including many June 30, 2003, deadlines. A central recommendation seems to be for a National Intelligence Director.

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence report leads Kevin Drum to raise an important counterfactual -- given what we now know, would the Senate have voted to authorize the use of force back in October 2002?

posted by: Tim on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

If you think htat of such import, let's try another Kevin Drum-ish question:

Would the Democrats have allowed Johnson to get us so deeply into debt for the war on poverty, had they known it would be such a monumental failure?

How many trillions have been spent, and yet the poverty levels have not moved percent one, with the now added benefit of the basic destruction of the black family.

The point of course is, how easy it is to judge in hindsight.

posted by: Bithead on 07.26.04 at 10:37 AM [permalink]

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