Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Democrats and the flight from 9-11

Making Hay(den) While They Shun Signs

by Niranjan Ramakrishnan
Bertie Wooster: Were you frightfully bright as a kid, Jeeves?
Jeeves: My mother thought me intelligent, sir.
Bertie Wooster: You can't go by that. My mother thought me intelligent!
(from a PG Wodehouse novel, a rough recollection)
If I am one of the 200 million whose phone records have been tracked by the government, General Michael Hayden has probably heard of me, but I am unable to say I reciprocated his interest. He only came up on my radar screen when he made his strident and unapologetic defense a few months ago of the warrant less phone tapping program.

It says something about a country when a president at 34% approval can nominate a confessed lawbreaker to one of the most powerful offices in the nation. (Hayden's assertions that he didn't think he broke the law is rather like Wooster's mom marveling at her child's intellect). It says even more when he encounters anything other than scornful indignation at his hearings. That he should be acclaimed and endorsed by the Senate panel speaks volumes about the Senate's own self-confidence. There was a time when Congress would bristle at the merest presumption upon its powers of oversight. Now it overlooks the most brazen usurpation's with a practiced acquiescence honed by five years of cowering.

The law be damned, the hell with freedoms, what we we need is "competence" in this age of terrorism, you say. And this is the standard Bush argument too, for anything and everything after 9-11.

So let's talk competence. Didn't Gen. Hayden lead the NSA before and during 9-11? How could anyone who held a high position in national security on that day be even considered for further office? Richard Reeves wrote that if 9-11 had happened in Japan, there would be no one left in the government to turn off the lights.

Let us accept that shame is not in our DNA. Corporate executives layoff poeple, export jobs, make losses, all while raising their own salaries and pensions. A leader who presided over two national disasters continues along as if he has invented sunlight. A Congress which signed on to starting an uprovoked war cannot bring itself to do anything to end the catastrophe it has wrought. We are all-forgiving. We are, after all, a compassionate people.

Democrats, particularly, pride themselves as the keepers of compassion. Nowhere is their claim more evident than with their deference to people like Hayden, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, and others, all of whom were in charge when the greatest disaster in American history (per the administration's repeated assertion) struck. Perhaps a need to demonstrate bipartisanship might explain their reticence to seek prosecution of these officials for incompetence and criminal negligence. But why lionize them, vote to keep them in their posts, give them promotions, or participate in ceremonies to pin medals of honor on them?

Julius Caesar spoke of the brave dying but once and the cowardly dying repeatedly. One always assumed suicide was a one time affair, but the Democrats have long exploded that canard, elevating suicide to an art form. They refused to raise 9-11 as a Republican failure in 2002, and lost. Kerry refused to touch the issue in 2004, and lost. The Democrats still run from it in 2006...

What credibility can they have on national security when they bolster the same individuals and teams that were in charge on 9-11? And with what voice could they challenge the administration's precept and practice of obedience to the law being optional, a mere courtesy, dependent entirely upon the pleasure of the executive, when they praise and vote for those who take pride in such an attitude?

As a purely political act, every opposition normally attempts to distinguish itself in the public mind by positioning itself against the ruling party. Even an opposition without principle would instinctively seek to challenge any senior appointee, just to increase the administration's discomfiture. That's politics. In this case, a proven incompetent and confessed lawbreaker should have received no votes, from either party. That's principle. In fact, principle should dictate that everything that Bush does should be opposed, with assent being the rare exception. A look at the polls would suggest that's the conclusion the country has reached.

When the Democrats voted 4-3 in favor of such a nominee, it shows not just their complete bankruptcy of both political instinct and moral principle. Even more, it shows that they are ignoring the signs from their own constituents, who are way ahead in their unbelief in the very bona fides of this administration.

Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at His blog is at

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