Thursday, October 05, 2006

The other scandal

I think Barbara at Mahablog and Eric Alterman have it right:
What is currently driving me the craziest, however, are the variations on this story. The upshot is this. Tenet briefed Condi Rice about a potentially catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States on July 10, 2001. Rice ignored the briefing, just as she and Bush both ignored the August 6 "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" memo, when Bush told the CIA briefer who delivered the memo to him that he had "covered his ass" and then went fishing for the rest of the day. Rice not only ignored the briefing, but also misled the 9-11 Commission and then lied when confronted with the evidence by Bob Woodward. Add her name to the long list of Bush administration officials who will leave office with the blood of thousands of innocents on her hands, and who was promoted by Bush for exactly that reason. Greg Mitchell has more here. Of course Rice should be fired, and perhaps tried, but instead she will be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Bush will run another campaign on how Democrats cannot be trusted to protect you from the terrorists he's created.

As Barbara points out, keeping the Foley scandal alive actually helps distract the press -- and the left generally -- from the larger issue of the Bush administration's utter incompetence, before and after 9/11, on national security and combating terrorism effectively. That was going to be the conversation going into the election; now it's the morals of the House leadership.

It also makes for a handy excuse after the election, which is shaping up as a disaster for the GOP -- it's all Hastert's fault! From a Rovian perspective, there are many perfectly good reasons for offering Hastert the White House's support.

After all, as Greg Mitchell explains, the upshot of the Rice matter is that not only was she given an explicit warning about attacks inside the United States on July 10, 2001, she apparently hid that fact from the 9/11 commission, and lied about having received such a warning afterward:
So, if the story is confirmed -- Woodward's track record is strong -- Rice should quit. But let's see what Tenet and Black and any documents say in the days ahead.

My check of her testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004 reveals that not only did Rice not disclose this meeting with the two men -- she also gave misleading information about the level of threats to the homeland that she learned about that summer.

How do we square Black's account (in the Woodward book) of that July 10, 2001, meeting -- "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head" -- and Rice's statement to the 9/11 Commission, "There was no threat reporting of any substance about an attack coming in the United States"?

Of course, as I recently pointed out, Rice's testimony to the 9/11 commission was later found to be misleading in many other ways, particularly inflating the scope and level of its response to threat information.

It all is incomprehensible indeed, until one takes into account the hard reality that's emerging as the facts are unveiled: the Bush administration was asleep at the wheel before Sept. 11, it has veered us off into a ditch in Iraq in the succeeding years, and its overall handling of national security and the "war on terror" has resembled nothing so much as a pack of frat kids on a weeklong bender with Daddy's Hummer.

Mind you, I think that the overall picture which emerges from the Rice scandal -- of the moral turpitude and utter lack of accountability for Republicans under conservative rule -- merges neatly with the Foley scandal. It should and could be part of a larger conversation we need to be having about just what kind of government conservative ideology produces.

Predatorgate is an important scandal because of what it reveals about Republican governance. But so is the Rice matter. At the next press conference with Tony Snow, reporters need to be asking more about it. Such as: Why, exactly, did Ms. Rice fail to inform the 9/11 commission of the July 10 meeting with Tenet and Black? And why did she deny its existence?

The voting public would like to know.

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