Skip to comments.Bush and His Aides Accuse Democrats of Second-Guessing: [President comes out swinging]
Posted on 05/18/2002 1:31:12 AM PDT by JohnHuang2
ASHINGTON, May 17 The White House began an aggressive attack on Democrats in Congress today as President Bush tried to contain the political fury over a warning he received last August that Osama bin Laden might be planning a hijacking.
On a day in which the political war over the August warning spread across the capital, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, took direct aim at a favorite Democratic target of Republicans, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and accused her of trying to undermine the administration in a speech she made on the floor of the Senate on Thursday questioning how much the president knew before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mr. Bush also made his first, brief public comment on the matter, saying of Washington that "unfortunately, it's the kind of place where second-guessing has become second nature." The president added, during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, that "had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people."
Nonetheless, the White House still found itself on the defensive once again today, this time over a 1999 report commissioned by a federal intelligence agency that eerily foreshadowed the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Suicide bomber(s) belonging to Al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency or the White House," the report said.
The report, titled "The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism," was prepared by the Library of Congress for the National Intelligence Council, an interagency group that oversees intelligence analysis throughout the government. The report, which has long been public, based its analysis largely on the fact that in 1995, a similar plot by a group of Islamic militants based in the Philippines who were linked to Al Qaeda was foiled.
The White House marshaled a host of resources, including Laura Bush, in its political offensive. Mrs. Bush was in Budapest this morning but issued a two-paragraph statement, an unusual action for a first lady who has largely stayed out of politics. "I think it is very sad that people would play upon the victims' families' emotions, or all Americans' emotions," Mrs. Bush said, adding that "I know my husband, and all Americans know how he has acted in Afghanistan and in the war with terror."
On Capitol Hill, the House Republicans' campaign organization worked to compile and circulate a list of votes against military or intelligence spending by Democrats who had questioned the president, while Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the Democrats were "salivating at the opportunity to try to bring the president down."
Mr. Fleischer said that the White House learned of the 1999 intelligence report only this morning and that neither Mr. Bush nor Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, had seen it. "This information that was out there did not raise enough alarms with anybody," Mr. Fleischer said.
Mr. Fleischer spent a significant portion of his briefing reprimanding by name members of Congress who had criticized the administration over the Aug. 6 warning, but he particularly singled out Mrs. Clinton, a longtime effective foil for Republican political fund-raising.
On Thursday on the Senate floor, Mrs. Clinton referred to a headline in that day's New York Post that blared in huge letters, "Bush Knew." The headline had infuriated the White House.
"The president knew what?" Mrs. Clinton said. "My constituents would like to know the answers to that and many other questions."
Today, Mr. Fleischer contrasted Mrs. Clinton's response to the headline with that of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who called the White House, Mr. Fleischer said, for an explanation, then pronounced the headline ridiculous.
But Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Fleischer said, "having seen the same headline, did not call the White House, did not ask if it was accurate or not. Instead, she immediately went to the floor of the Senate, and I'm sorry to say that she followed that headline and divided."
In New York today, Mrs. Clinton responded: "I am only seeking answers and information. I am not looking to point fingers or place blame on anybody."
Other lawmakers who drew Mr. Fleischer's ire included Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, who on Thursday was highly critical of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, saying that it had failed to react sufficiently to important information before the attacks. But today Mr. Fleischer said Mr. Shelby had complained of the general threat alerts issued by the administration after the Sept. 11 attacks implying that when the administration had warned Americans of what it knew, Congress had been critical.
"Senator Shelby said, `The administration has to make a judgment call' his words `about what to do with intelligence that it received,' " Mr. Fleischer said. "But he asked, `How many times can you cry wolf if nothing happens?' "
Mr. Fleischer also singled out Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and a member of the intelligence committee, for comments she made on CNN in July 2001 warning of a "major probability of a terrorist incident" within three months.
"The question arises, what did the Democrats know and why weren't they talking to each other?" Mr. Fleischer said.
Democrats, who have grown increasingly angry over what they see as the use of the war for political purposes by the White House, said they were taken aback by the fierceness of the Republican offensive.
"I've never seen them in such a frenzy," said Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. "This is a time for calmer heads to prevail and for us to wait and see what facts unfold."
As the political battles continued, government officials said the C.I.A. and F.B.I. had moved two important counterterrorism officials. The F.B.I. has reassigned Kevin Faust, head of its bin Laden squad, and the C.I.A. has moved Cofer Black, head of its counterterrorism task force.
F.B.I. officials said that Mr. Faust had not been the subject of criticism for the bureau's handling of information before the Sept. 11 attack and that he had merely been reassigned to another counterterrorism unit. C.I.A. officials said Mr. Black had come to the end of a three-year assignment and had been rotated to a new job.
Democrats continued to call today for a broader investigation into the intelligence failure before Sept. 11. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said the political furor was more of a reason for the House and Senate to go forward with legislation sponsored by him and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, to create an independent commission to look into the events leading up to Sept. 11. "This ought not to be partisan," he said.
Representative Tim Roemer, Democrat of Indiana, plans to introduce legislation creating a similar commission in the House, an aide said.
At the moment, a joint investigation by the Senate and House intelligence committees is under way, even as Senator Tom Daschle reminded reporters on Thursday that both Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had separately asked him that there be no investigation.
This afternoon a group of Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee asked the panel's chairman, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin, to convene public hearings into what the administration knew about possible terrorist attacks.
"We cannot leave an investigation of this matter to a behind-closed-doors review by the intelligence community and intelligence committees," said the letter, which was signed by Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat, and by the ranking members of the panel's subcommittees. "Our concerns are not ones of public relations or politics, but of substance and a commitment to ensuring that similar errors are prevented in the future."
Today the administration disclosed more details on a failure of communication between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. in the months before Sept. 11. Intelligence officials said the C.I.A. was not given a copy of a July 2001 memorandum from an F.B.I. agent in Phoenix discussing Al Qaeda's possible interest in sending operatives to American flight schools until two weeks ago.
That memorandum identified about seven Arabs who were being monitored by the F.B.I. for possible terrorist involvement and noted that they were all taking aviation-related training. F.B.I. officials said the C.I.A. was aware of the identities of the men under investigation, and conducted joint inquiries on some of them. None of the men were associated with Mr. bin Laden.
Big Media and The Cynthia McKinney Effect
From the panic-stricken media hysterics, you might get the impression the President himself secretly plotted 9/11 with Osama Bin Laden while vacationing at his ranch in Crawford last summer. CBSNEWS -- already embroiled in scandal for airing this week a snippet of the Pearl murderer video -- was the first out the gate with the new "bombshell" "revelation" Wednesday night.
What's all the hullaballo about?
Sit down -- get ready for a shocker.
According to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, U.S. intelligence last August told President Bush that Bin Laden (gasp!) might possibly seek to hijack American aircraft.
Anyone with an ounce of sense should figure that out all by his lonesome. Excuse me, but where's the "startling" "revelation" here? Or am I missing something?
Gee, Mr. President, Osama Bin Laden doesn't really like us much. And you know what? He might even try to hijack our planes. Uh-ah. A shocker, alright.
Give me a break.
Don't need to be a spook to know hijackings are a favorite of terrorists -- well before 9/11. $40 billion bureaucrats to tell you what any moron knows at a glance? To me, that's the scandal here.
If this no-brainer is news to the newsies, then they're even duller than I thought.
Presidents are fed intelligence alerts like this all the time. They are, by nature, alarmist. The warnings run the gamut, from potential biological and chemical attacks, to full-scale nuking. Should Presidents grab a bullhorn and cry 'wolf!' at the drop of a hat? Now, how smart would that be? Prudently, the White House responded last August by secretly putting the feds on Red Alert. Why tip-off the enemy?
But the presstitutes have their work cut out for them. You see, they're trying, strenuously trying -- someway, somehow -- to make a molehill into a mountain. (Psst! Mid-term elections are just around the corner.)
"Bush Knew of Hijack Threat", screamed CBSNEWS.com Wednesday night, insanely implying the President knew of the terror-plot in advance, with specificity, but did nothing to stop it.
As Condoleeza Rice yesterday tried to explain, the briefings were general in nature -- no date, no time, no target was indicated. Indeed, a CIA spokesman emphasized that suicide hijackings, a la 9/11, were never even imagined.
The reason is obvious. The word "hijacking", post-9/11, means suicide bombers crashing jets into big city skyscrapers and the Pentagon in Washington. Pre-9/11, "hijacking" meant hostages, ransom demands, etc.
Everything changed on September 11.
Further, for the press to suggest something sinister is ludicrous on its face. From U.S. surveillance satellites, American officials knew that al-Qaeda used an actual jet on the ground in training camps to school terrorists in the 'art'. I doubt CIA thought the camps offered courses for Flight Attendants.
But no-one -- not even the vaunted CIA -- could envision a 9/11. To a peaceful nation, shielded by oceans east and west, friendly neighbors north and south, the horrors of 9/11 were singularly unfathomable.
But don't tell the media eggheads; don't tell the phony-baloney, publicity-starved 20/20 hindsighters on Capitol Hill beating their chests in righteous indignation.
Already we hear echoes of Watergate's, "what did the President know and when did he know it?"
This is pack "journalism" at its absolute worse, folks. The AP hears CBS say it; AP repeats it, which spurs CNN, then ABC, MSNBC -- not to be outdone -- hop on the gravy train, embellishing the tale beyond recognition. By early Thursday, the story metastasized into a full-blown, media-made White House "flap".
It doesn't get any lower, any meaner, any shallower, any dirtier, any pettier than this, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Nor any loonier, either. Call it the Cynthia McKinney effect.
The berserko from Georgia charged the President last month with advance knowledge of 9/11; that he did nothing to stop it to line the pockets of fat-cat war profiteers -- defense contractors. In the daffy, loony world of Cynthia McKinney, 9/11 was nothing but a sinister kickback scheme, a way for Bush to pay back 'wealthy' campaign contributors.
Scary stuff. Scary, that is, that someone so foolish, so zany, so obviously deranged might sit in Congress. Demented kooks making life and death decisions -- that's enough to scare the bejeebers out of anyone. Then again, that's Congress.
In retrospect, so what started as a Cynthia McKinney trial balloon -- it blew up in her face -- has now become Big Media's flavor of the month, the "scandal" to sink the Bush Presidency.
The story now isn't that Bush knew too little, but that he knew it all -- every jot and tittle -- and allowed it to happen. What's next? That Bush was behind the Anthrax mailings?
Gee, America, your President is a terrorist.
We knew the press hated Bush, but never how much. We now know. Presidents, over the history of our republic, have stood accused of many things. But never something as unseemly, as scurrilous, as foul, as gross, as vulgar and dirty as this. Accusing the President of complicity in -- or indifference to -- the cold-blooded murder of thousands of citizens ranks as a new, unimaginable low. This isn't just tawdry politics, this is character assassination of dimensions unprecedented. And, on top of that, during wartime.
To Bush-haters out there, I wouldn't pop the champagne corks just yet, if I were you.
The media's strategy is clear: Blacken the name George W. Bush, transform public perception from symbol of courage and resolve, to traitor or blundering fool. The man can't be both. But the press won't stop until merely mentioning the name hurls voters into fits of revulsion -- or ridicule.
In their frantic quest to destroy this President, the media has tried every trick in their playbook.
They tried Enron. It flopped. They tried the 9/11 photo. It sputtered. They tried Anthrax. It fizzled. They tried Afghanistan -- the quagmire. It backfired. They tried the "drunken" twins. It bombed. They tried Kyoto. It stalled. They tried arsenic in drinking water. It sunk. They tried the deficit. It faded. They tried 'unilateralism'. It faltered. They tried the Mideast. It ebbed.
I could go on.
Suffice it is to say that, with the beltway press, this President never once enjoyed a honeymoon. From the gitgo, Big Media's been on the warpath, voraciously on the attack.
What's new are the depths of depravity Bush's enemies will plumb, out of desparation, to bring down his Presidency.
I mentioned how the media has its work cut out for it, here's why.
For one thing, the story already is taking new, unexpected twists and turns.
By mid-afternoon, in fact, Democrats had egg on their faces. It was reported that senior Democrats -- the very hypocrites pointing accusatory fingers at the White House -- in fact were given the very same intelligence briefing as the President at the time. As were the intelligence committees in both houses of Congress.
Secondly, on investigating 9/11, are Democrats sure they want to 'go there'? All trails lead right back to Clinton. Repeatedly, Bin Laden was offered for extradition during the Clinton administration. The offers were turned down summarily, each time. Three-thousand men, women and children are dead as a consequence.
Moreover, on Clinton's watch, our intelligence agencies were decimated, as was our military. The FBI was mired in paralysis. A new director was installed only eight days before the 9/11 attacks.
Politically, despite the sound and fury, it's hard to imagine how any of this will change the public perception of Bush as a decent human being.
You see, Bush's persona as honest and trustworthy -- as a man of integrity -- isn't just for show: It's the real thing. The public senses that.
As promised, Bush restored dignity and respect to his office, after the battering it took during the Clinton years.
Decent, respectable, honorable -- these are Bush's defining traits.
It's why Democrats are desparate.
But the bond between Bush and his countrymen, forged in the 9/11 aftermath, is firm and dauntless -- and will doubtless endure this teapot-sized tempest.
Democrats are in for a terrible disappointment.
Mark my words.
My two cents....
Saturday, May 18, 2002
While early signs (media polls, etc) point in that direction, Hill Republicans need to the Dems the riot act, hammer and hammer away at them till their ground to a pulp.
While early signs (media polls, etc) point in that direction, Hill Republicans need to [READ] the Dems the riot act, hammer and hammer away at them till their ground to a pulp.
Your two cents is exquisite.
Godspeed, The Dilg