Shutting down the 9/11 investigation
The White House and its none-too-sharp congressional tool, Speaker Dennis Hastert, have now vindicated suspicions that they fear a thorough investigation of the events leading up to Sept. 11, 2001. Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that the Bush administration and the congressional leadership won't allow any additional time for the independent commission probe chaired by Thomas Kean, the Republican hand-picked by the president. Kean and his fellow commissioners have long warned that administration resistance to their requests for classified information might push them past their original May 27 deadline.
According to the Post, the 10-member bipartisan panel still must interview at least 200 additional witnesses -- including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney -- and examine some 2 million documents. Without more time, commission members fear, they won't be able to finish a "thorough and credible" report.
Kean, a former New Jersey governor who is now president of Drew University, has made enough noise in recent months to worry Republicans about what his commission might say in the midst of the presidential campaign. Wesley Clark has already promised to make an issue of the catastrophic security failures during the administration's first nine months. Indeed, Clark recently denounced the idea that 9/11 couldn't have been prevented as "one of the greatest lies that has been told during the past three years."
Republican strategists may likewise fret about Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill -- and what he might say if the commission called him to testify about the administration's counterterrorist vigilance, or lack thereof. O'Neill's recollections of the administration's first National Security Council meetings, set down in Ron Suskind's "The Price of Loyalty," reveal how obtuse the "grown-ups" working for Bush turned out to be. Their chief agenda item from the very beginning was the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, says O'Neill, who remembers no mention whatsoever of Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida. That was a curious omission in light of the urgent terrorism warnings by Clinton's departing national security team.
Meanwhile, the family members of the 9/11 victims are increasingly angry over what they regard as a White House coverup and the commission's complicity in it. Bereaved and aggrieved, they will be waiting for the president and Karl Rove in New York next fall.
Rum, sodomy, and the roulette wheel
A friend writes to alert me to a potentially delightful leisure opportunity -- namely, a cruise sponsored by National Review. In addition to all the usual luxurious amenities aboard the good ship Seven Seas Navigator, passengers on the May trip to Bermuda will be able to enjoy panel discussions and casual conversation with the magazine's luminaries, including editor Rich Lowry. Guest speakers will include former CIA director Jim Woolsey and the renowned author, moralist and official national scold William Bennett.
That lineup sounds irresistible, but my friend adds a cautionary note: "Of course, there's a real question as to whether Bennett will be available to participate in panels, schmooze right-wingers poolside, or hold forth about the need for more virtue over the massive buffet. For among the boat's amenities is ... a casino."
[4:30 p.m. PDT, Jan. 19, 2004]