Bush Suggests Politics Are Behind Sept. 11 Questions.
May 16, 2002 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Bush Suggests Politics Are Behind Sept. 11 Questions. President Bush, suddenly challenged about what he knew before the Sept. 11 attacks, told fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill on Thursday "there is a sniff of politics in the air," a congressional source said.
posted by Ty Webb (40 comments total)
They are politicians, right? Their primary goal is to be reelected. That's the nature of politics.
posted by BlueTrain at 5:16 PM on May 16, 2002

Let's see, in the weeks and months after 9/11, Bush used the attacks as a pretext for ramming his legislative agenda through Congress, wrapping his giveaways to the energy and defense insdustries in a patriotic sheen, and generally pimping out the memories of those killed in the cheapest way imaginable...but now Congress has some questions regarding new and inconvient (to the Bush gang) facts and he accuses them of playing politics. Ha ha. Shaddup.
posted by Ty Webb at 5:19 PM on May 16, 2002

there is a stench of dubya in the air.
posted by quonsar at 5:40 PM on May 16, 2002

Pot calling kettle... Over.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 5:50 PM on May 16, 2002

Considering the idea that there were indeed warnings, red flags, hunches and the notion that the CIA and FBI exisit to prevent this sort of thing, it is astounding that the boxcutter team pulled it off. How dare Bush cop out, now that people have started asking questions that absolutely deserve to be asked.

I bet in the end, this administration is going to look really, really bad.
posted by davebush at 6:01 PM on May 16, 2002

yea, if there is no opposition party we would live in a dictatorship. it's the opposition party's job to point out, and even find, problems with the leadership. if you do something wrong when people call you on it you shouldn't make them look bad. it bothers me how republicans have made "being partisan" a bad thing, they are different parties, one wouldn't expect them to agree on everything.
posted by rhyax at 6:16 PM on May 16, 2002

In the end? It doesn't look too good now.
posted by UnReality at 6:17 PM on May 16, 2002

But if he starts telling what he knew, and when...where will it end? He might have to fess up to what REALLY happened on Sept 11....
posted by rushmc at 6:23 PM on May 16, 2002

Surprisingly :-) I don't agree with many comments here. The most Bush knew was that there were vague, non-specific threats -- the exact same kind that have been whispered about and known about for years. AFAIK, there was NO specific information about what, where, or how the events of 9/11 would unfold, and almost no way to stop it from occuring. Prior to 9/11, if the feds had even suggested the stricter security measures that are now in place, the public would have raised up in anger and defied such measures.

This truly is partisanship of the worst sort on the part of the Dems.
posted by davidmsc at 6:23 PM on May 16, 2002

This truly is partisanship of the worst sort on the part of the Dems.

I don't know what could or should have been done differently -- no one does. But isn't that the point? The Bush administration doesn't know, either. It would be irresponsible not to investigate, or to leave it all up to the administration.

Sure, everything is political. (If you want to talk politics, how could withholding the fact that Bush had been warned of terrorist highjacking intentions in August have had anything but a political motive?) But let's move past that, and get on with trying to figure out how the terrorists were so successful in exploiting weaknesses in U.S. national security -- and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.
posted by mattpfeff at 6:30 PM on May 16, 2002

"Daschle told CBS News Senior Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer that in recent months the president on one occasion and the vice president, more than once, urged him to stop his investigation.

"According to Daschle, he was told, 'the intelligence community was so involved in the aftermath of 9-11 that they didn't want to take people off of what they were doing to do something like this.'"

I'm not sure what to think of this.
posted by homunculus at 6:33 PM on May 16, 2002

davidmsc, I fully agree with your first paragraph, and not at all with your second. If there had been even an attempt to respond to the threats that now apparently were known before 9/11, everyone in the country - left, right, and center - would have been righteously indignant at the brazen attempt to strip away our civil liberties.

But falling back on the "partisanship" argument only dilutes that valid point. If the roles were reversed, your "partisanship" would likely become "full and proper disclosure".
posted by yhbc at 6:39 PM on May 16, 2002

Politics ARE behind those 9/11 questions of course
Just like they were behind Whitewater, the blow-job scandal, the Florida recount and the Supremes' verdict.
You take a little truth and blow it up to make the opponent look bad, it's disingenious by someone Bush to act shocked

American political life has gotten pretty rough in the last few years, it's late to complain. Civility's -- almost never present in politics -- has gone down the drain years ago.

He's just lucky no Democrat supporters played the "recovering alcoholic" that bad in 2000, imagine a Democrat Lee Atwater playing that angle with Willie Horton subtlety (FADE IN: an empty whiskey bottle on the Oval Office desk. Cigarette butts... Voiceover: etc etc)

I can't imagine what Republicans would have done with allegations of Clintonian drunkenness -- look at what they did to McCain with the "he's nuts" tactic in the primaries to snuff him out (and we're talking about a war hero here, not about a philanderer who dodged the draft like Clinton)

But there's no liberal Mellon Scaife, the special prosecutor statute's toast, Dems are not as good as playing hardball.

Pointless to whine for W. This makes the Bush White House look bad for the first time in 8 months, they weren't used anymore to anything resembling opposition
Now the show's temporarily back
posted by matteo at 6:41 PM on May 16, 2002

Traditionally the choice for politicians stuck between picking "I was incompetent" and "I was negligent" is to claim you are at least as incompetent as necessary to get off the hook.

The Bush administration will try that, ocassionally throwing staff in front of the oncoming press as needed, and it will work pretty well.

But some supporters of this administration have had the bloom knocked off the rose, and it's not going to be the same for them after this news.

And I hope this isn't the tip of the iceberg. A constant drip drip drip of more news about more information being available would be too painful for the whole country.

And I'm also certain that if Gore was in office, and the exact same circumstances applied, Grover Norquist would have an orgasm.
posted by dglynn at 6:59 PM on May 16, 2002

I will wait for full hearings to get whatever information can be dug up. It thus far looks odd to me. Why? Bin Ladin specifically named. Planes were to be hijacked. This too had taken place earlier in Phillipines. Suspicipous people known to be training for flight trxaining at flight schools etc etc. Again, I am first of all shocked that after 9/11 the heads of agencies involved were not put on leave till hearings held and completed.
Now it is possible that Bush will be seen as not res-ponsible--or at least negligent. But why has it taken this long to discover that the info had been sent on to the White House? Why was this not known before now>?
But to dismiss every criticism or demand for an inquiry as "partisan" means we are not supposed to ask questions or demand answers--that is just plain stupid and uncalled for. I note that Clinton got many many investigattions for Whitewater etc and that was ok.
posted by Postroad at 7:04 PM on May 16, 2002

AFAIK, there was NO specific information about what, where, or how the events of 9/11 would unfold

I basically agree with your assessment, but I think the implication that you WOULD know of any such information is pretty silly.
posted by rushmc at 7:14 PM on May 16, 2002

This makes the Bush White House look bad for the first time in 8 months

::: choke ::: Whaaaa?
posted by rushmc at 7:19 PM on May 16, 2002

I don't like Dubya any more than the next liberal, but he's getting a bum rap here. Pre 911, post 93, the Feds have been getting so many warnings about terrorist attacks both foreign and domestic, their manpower was worn thin researching the validity of each threat. My guess is they had inside jokes about the ones that came more often. The repeating motifs. A lot of threats found their way on a table gathering dust, or maybe file thirteen.

Anyone ever hear the one about the boy who cried wolf? I'm sure Osama has. He played us like fools.

Terrorists either purposefully or accidently (or both) sent out so much false information that the one which actually turned out true slipped through the cracks. This is not an indication that the system is corrupted. It was overtaxed. Numbed with propoganda in the guise of impotent threats. We're not being told about the ones the Feds learned about which they acted on and thwarted, or the exact number of wild goose chases and red herrings they followed. Would be nice if we were given all that information, but information is power and the Feds aren't going to start full disclosure to the public any time soon. It would be like telegraphing every punch to the enemy.

Before Nine Eleven, if you walked up to a suit & tie wearing shades and one of those things in his ear and told him that you had information leading to bin Laden hiring people to hijack airplanes, the guy would have laughed in your face and said, "tell me another one. Pull my other leg. I've already heard this joke but their ain't no punchline kid. Get outta here." Only we heard the punchline on Nine Eleven, and it wasn't funny.

When you smoke a cigarette with a filter, the filter captures some of the smoke, but not all of it. A perfect filter would gt all the smoke before it reached your lungs, but then what would be the point of smoking?

We can't stop these violent terrorist bastards at their own game. We have to convince them to quit death. Cold turkey. We have to get them to realize, just as with a smoker trying to quit, that the more they give in to their addiction of death, the more they just kill themselves.

Dubya's not the problem. He's not the solution, but he's not the problem. The opposing party attacking him like this is not resolving the issue. It's compounding the problem. I'm no fan of Dubya's, but this ain't gettin' us anywhere.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:30 PM on May 16, 2002

This truly is partisanship of the worst sort on the part of the Dems.

Utter bullshit.

Republicans have no trouble calling for massive investigations and surveillance of citizens in order to "protect America". But God forbid that any of their own be called to account. If Republicans decry the demand for a complete, open investigation of what happened and how we can prevent it, an investigation that may somehow touch their own little klan, they and you are the only ones wallowing in politics here...potentially protecting incompetents and their incompetence solely to protect votes. Shameful.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 7:34 PM on May 16, 2002

We have to convince them to quit death. Cold turkey. We have to get them to realize, just as with a smoker trying to quit, that the more they give in to their addiction of death, the more they just kill themselves.

Won't work. We've been that round in a recent thread here on Metafilter. They don't care.
posted by rushmc at 7:56 PM on May 16, 2002

Connect the dots: Dot 1. The FBI field office wrote a memo stating that they believed middle eastern men were training in American flight schools in large numbers. Dot 2. The CIA said in an intelligence briefing in Aug. 01 that there were warnings about bin Laden attacking US intrests overseas and domesticly, including hijacking of aircraft. Dot 3. The FBI was warned about and then arrested Mousaoui (sp). He was training to fly commerical jets but didn't want to land or take off.

If you combine this with the knowledge that there were plans to attack both the effel tower and the CIA headquaters by raming a plane into them in the past few years shouldn't a Texas sized red flag go up?

I know that the FBI and the CIA are known to not play well together but didn't they both talk to the Pres. or to Dr. Rice, or the Select Intelligence Commitee? At the very least someone could have checked on those flight schools. I know that several of those hijackers were here on expired visas. If we had picked up even 5 or 6 of them maybe 9/11 could have been stopped.
posted by bas67 at 8:00 PM on May 16, 2002

It's interesting to me that the Bush Administration, which is by many accounts one of the tightest-lipped ever, let this get out. It may have been intentional, or it may have been an attempt by this "congressional source" to help GOP congresspersons in contested seats this November. If it's the latter, someone's going to get their ass kicked.
posted by Ty Webb at 8:06 PM on May 16, 2002

(Just) three words:


Vince Foster
posted by BentPenguin at 8:08 PM on May 16, 2002

The opposing party attacking him like this is not resolving the issue. It's compounding the problem.

Bzzt! Sorry, try again. While there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Bush as yet or not at all, it sure isn't the duty of the opposition to just say "never mind, carry on". Not to mention that they sure as hell didn't do that the past eight years...
posted by owillis at 8:09 PM on May 16, 2002

ZachsMind: Excellent comment - well spoken. Thanks.
posted by davidmsc at 8:49 PM on May 16, 2002

(Just) three words:


Vince Foster

You are either batsh*t insane or... well, pretty much that's the option.
posted by hincandenza at 9:40 PM on May 16, 2002

Does anyone remember when Gray Davis was raked over the coals for letting the S.F. Bay Area know about a possible threat to the bridges? He was ridiculed and conservative nobs tagged him as jealous of Rudi's adoration. What horse's hit. Bush should have done the same thing, and God bless the Airline Industry, they would have taken a "hit," and you would not have widows lined up to sue the Federal Government.

Gray, you did a good thing. The economy didn't crumble (Enron execs were busy taking care of that - another as-of-late Davis vindication) and if an attack had occurred, you would have had a clean conscience.

Which raises the question, how, exactly, does Bush sleep? I mean besides on the bed of the founding fathers, wrapped in an American flag, dreaming of the good of the country, strengthing the future of America, for a better world for generations to come, never forgetting the children, fearlessly fighting evil wherever it may be, tirelessly pursuing justice, standing up for families (and the elderly), never afraid to speak his mind, taking on immorality at its source, unafraid of sacrifice (no matter the cost - including the environment), basking in the yellow sun of the earth which gives him superhuman powers and flying to and fro, defeating Mothra, Bin Laden, and Satan, in the nooks and crannies of baby-raping evildoers' hideouts.

I say "Rah," and even, "Rah-Rah" for our good-doer man, Presidente Bush.

I guess if you tell yourself a fairy tale often enough you will sleep just fine.

Good night.
posted by Sr_Cluba at 11:38 PM on May 16, 2002

I dunno. first the whole "I smell politics" thing is bs on so many levels. I mean it doesn't matter what party was in office. If something like this came out it would be blown up by the opposite party that's life in washington. If the Dem's are smart they'll use this to cripple a little bit of cred and kill a few Republican bill's while they have some leverage and realize that this is too early to have a significant dent in Bush's re-election attempt's

I think the hilarious part here is that Dubya can be a politician of the highest office and he is still stating the obvious. Damn Capitol Hill should smell like politics like a cow pie smells like shit. What fucking planet is he living on. What scares me most is his distance from the people he's supposed to be leading.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:45 AM on May 17, 2002

> You are either batsh*t insane or... well, pretty much
> that's the option.

Maybe he really is Dan Quayle.
posted by pracowity at 2:02 AM on May 17, 2002

What bothers me about this whole situation is that Bush can't have it both ways.

He can't say that the threats before 9/11 weren't "credible" enough to tell the American people about while now tossing out all these vague "be on your highest alert" warnings. My understanding is that the most recent warnings are no better founded than those before 9/11.

The difference is that the recent warnings serve to frighten the public -- and frightened people don't like change. They like stability and security, and at the polling place, that equals no change in leadership. "The evil you know is better than the one you don't" and all that.

Honestly, I'm not saying Bush did anything wrong before 9/11 -- we really don't have enough information yet to make a judgement on that. But since then, he's milked it for all it's worth, and I don't like being treated like I'm too stupid to figure that out.
posted by shauna at 2:29 AM on May 17, 2002

This is directly connected with this which is being discussed here. I don't know US TV but I can't imagine that Dan Rather is considered a muckraking leftwinger. Is he?

When it comes to pot calling the kettle black Bush is acting like some tin pot general and the American public lap it up - give him an inch and he'll take a mile:
"George Bush was accused yesterday of exploiting September 11 for political gain after the Republican party began selling a picture showing him calling Dick Cheney, the vice-president, from Air Force One hours after the disaster."
posted by niceness at 3:05 AM on May 17, 2002

Has anyone actually asked Ari or Condi whether additional security was implemented at airports after the hijack warnings were received? From the excerpts of the briefings I've seen, they've had something of a free ride so far. I've never been to the US, but the friends of mine who have say that compared to European airports, security was a joke. There's plenty, I think, that could have been done behind the scenes that wouldn't have caused a civil liberties uproar. And there were definitely whispers of bin Laden planning something big that made the papers here over the summer.

And yeah, the attempt to smear any investigation as 'political' is itself political. Pot, kettle.
posted by riviera at 5:02 AM on May 17, 2002

Was Karl Rove telling Repubs last January that they could leverage 9/11 for legislative gains now and in November NOT politicizing the event?

Was Dubya and Ari saying "It's Clinton's fault!" NOT politicizing the event?

Was selling photos of "crusader bunnypants of 9/11 looking for a deeper rabbit hole" for $150 a pop for the Repub party NOT politicizing the event?

The stink I smell is bs hypocrisy!!

And why was it considered prudent to have Asscroft put off commercial to private air last June but there was no need to alarm the American public? Is there a double standard at work here? Remember the campaign slogan of "Gore trusts the government but I trust the people!"? So if that's true, what's with all the government secrecy Dubya? Aren't we being dishonest and hypocritical mR. pResident?
posted by nofundy at 6:30 AM on May 17, 2002

Lest we forget, here's what the "liberal press" and partisan Repug dogs had to say the day after..
posted by nofundy at 7:08 AM on May 17, 2002

If Dubya's current story is true, I don't fault him for what he did (or didn't) do. But the thing that makes me uneasy is how immediately after the attacks he and his cronies made a really big deal about how 'no investigation is neccessary' and we don't need to look into how this happened, they didn't know anything, there's no story here, move along, blah blah blah... Then eight months later it turns out that they did know SOMETHING, and they still don't want to allow any investigation into the matter, nor do they want to just lay their cards on the table and be done with it. If the full story is simply that Bush received a vague warning, let's see the warning and some evidence of his response. If his defense is that he privately warned all the airlines, how come both airlines involved on 9/11 say they never received any such warning? Is their denial a partisan attack too? These things tell me he's still hiding something and that an aggressive investigation needs to continue, partisan or not.
posted by spilon at 7:17 AM on May 17, 2002

If the government told me, We received hundreds of vague threats/leads a week, it would be impossible and counterproductive to follow them all, I would agree. If the government told me, We even stopped a number of nasty things from happening that you don't even know about, I'd say thanks and keep up the good work.

When the government says to me, We had, against a backdrop of some very vague hijack warnings, specific information that some questionable people were taking commercial flying lessons in the U.S. and we didn't even follow up with, say a few phone calls or taking 5 minutes to put these people on some kind of list (hell, we'll even renew some of their visas months after the fact, just for ha-has). then I'm seriously pissed, and now unlikely to believe the earlier assertions I so readily bought off on.

The chilling aspect of this is not so much the failure to "connect the dots" which looks a lot easier after some hindsight, but the inference that our intelligence forces really were (are) stunningly incompetent, or simply ignored by the powers that be. As to Dick Cheney's comments above, I might argue the current administration's handling of this crisis is becoming "thoroughly irresponsible and totally unworthy of national leaders in a time of war"...
posted by jalexei at 7:44 AM on May 17, 2002

This truly is partisanship of the worst sort on the part of the Dems.

At least its over something relevant, and not blowing millions in an investigation of Clinton's sexual conduct. If this is as low as the Dem's go, the Rep's are irrevocably subterranian.
posted by holycola at 8:49 AM on May 17, 2002

riviera, I think you're exactly right. It was common knowledge that our airline security was a bad joke and it should have been clear from the January 2001 report of the Hart-Rudman Commission (which Bush chose to ignore) that a terroroist attack of some kind was inevitable. If there was even the vaguest threat of a domestic hijaking, some kind of action should have been taken. They could have at least reimplmented the sky marshal program. I understand that Bush couldn't have known about the 9/11 attack specifically, but he must have known how vulnerable the system as a whole was and could have made some attempt to fix it.
posted by homunculus at 10:00 AM on May 17, 2002

Yeah, what jalexei said.
posted by spilon at 11:41 AM on May 17, 2002

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