Bush "evolves" on intelligence reforms


Tim Grieve
November 24, 2004 9:15PM (UTC)

To hear the Republicans tell it, George W. Bush has never changed his mind on anything -- and he has certainly never said one thing and done something else. But the evidence continues to mount that, on issues surrounding the 9/11 commission, the King of Consistency has been anything but.

Bush opposed the creation of the 9/11 commission, then supported it, then said later that he had never opposed it at all. He refused to testify before the commission, then agreed to "meet" with its members but only if Dick Cheney could come, too. He tried to keep his national security advisor -- and soon-to-be secretary of state -- from testifying, then caved and sent her up for one of the more embarrassing days in her recent career of failing upward.

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And when the 9/11 commission issued its recommendations -- an urgent call for reform of America's intelligence operations -- Bush stalled and equivocated. The commission issued its recommendations on July 22. John Kerry and many others endorsed the recommendations immediately. Nearly two weeks later, Bush endorsed a watered-down version of the commission's call for a national intelligence director, warning darkly: "We're a nation in danger." He said Congress should act quickly on his plan, with a vote to be taken in September.

Now here we are fading into December, and the Republican-controlled Congress -- which must be eager to obey that Bush "mandate," right? -- still hasn't adopted even the watered-down version of the 9/11 commission's recommendations. So far, the White House has managed to blame the failure -- and this will sound familiar to anyone who watched the Bush camp respond to Abu Ghraib, the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln, or that Photoshopped campaign ad -- on a few renegade members of Congress.

The truth, of course, is that Pentagon staff -- and even, at times, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- have opposed the intelligence reforms on the same grounds that those renegade members of Congress are pushing. Rumsfeld and his people are rushing to explain themselves now, and the best they can do is an answer that doesn't fit so well with the carefully crafted image of their commander in chief. The Pentagon isn't bucking the White House line, Rumsfeld said Tuesday. Instead, he said, "The president's position is evolving as the negotiation evolves."

Could it be that the president opposed the 9/11 commission recommendations before he supported them before he opposed them again?


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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