The Corner

About Last Night

I thought Cheney was fine and Edwards was better than the reviews have been. After eight years of Clinton, I am surprised to hear pundits this morning saying it is hard to imagine Edwards as president. He is very reminiscent of the Clinton of 1992. He is also the scary combination of Clinton’s glibness and likability minus the pathology. Edwards would have been much more of a handful than Kerry at the top of the ticket. I wish I thought 9/11 had so altered the country’s perspective about the centrality of national security that turning to a Clinton-type who seems thin on the issues that matter would be inconceivable. But I don’t. For a little less than half of the country–importantly, the part in which the MSM and the academy live–it’s 9/10 all over again, assuming it ever wasn’t.

Cheney got the better of Edwards, though, memorably slamming him on the Iraqi contribution to the war effort. The Veep was also good on the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. Still, it’s remarkable how we have allowed what should be a winner to become a loser issue on which we are playing defense. Like it or not, this stems directly from a Bush policy choice.

Back in April, when it was becoming clear that the 9/11 Commission was, in significant part, a partisan witch-hunt, the administration could have treated it as just that. The Commission would then have lost stature and credibility, and its final report would have had a public standing roughly equivalent to that of Richard Clarke, the man the Commission partisans so adopted as their own — meaning that, yes, the report would be being cited as gospel by the people who already opposed Bush anyway, but it would also have been dismissed already by the rest of the country as an opporntunistic, politicized electoral gambit.

Instead, the administration made a calculation that it was better to cultivate the Commission and get a (slightly at best) more favorable final report. So it threw the Commission a lifeline — vastly increasing its prestige as a credible, bipartisan arbiter. The result: the fruits of the Commission’s shoddy, selective, hopelessly incomplete “investigation” of Iraq/Qaeda ties–based on no direct source interviews, no hearings, and intelligence of just the type the Commission otherwise found to be sparse and unreliable–are being accepted widely as fact and effectively used as a hammer against the administration. This is what happens if you don’t fight when it’s time to fight–and back in April it was time to fight.

Here’s what I don’t understand: Having made the decision to embrace the Commission, why is the administration not at least using the parts of the report that are helpful. If Kerry and Edwards love the Commission so much, do they agree with its assessment that congressional oversight of intelligence was deplorable when they were on the Committee–not attending hearings–that was in charge of it? Since the Commission said congressional accountability is crucial, will Kerry and Edwards release their attendance records at the closed sessions so the voters can see how accountable they are for the intelligence debacles we are still feeling the effects of? Why aren’t these questions being asked? Why are the Dems being permitted to use the Commision’s report as a cudgel without feeling any of its wallop?

One other observation: If this was October 1946, is there any doubt Kerry and Edwards would be telling us that Germany is a mess and the administration didn’t have “a plan to win the peace”–whatever that means?


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