April 10th, 2004 ~ I suppose, if this is to be a journal of any historical value at all, I am required to say something about Thursday's testimony before the Congressional 9/11 Commisssion by National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice. Aside from her revelation of the title to an August 6th, 2001 memo - "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the United States" - I came away from her testimony with little to no additional insight into actions which might have been taken to prevent the murder of nearly 3,000 people. Perhaps her content-lite approach and repeated "silver bullet" references were inspired by Wednesday's surprise announcement that Coors Brewing Magnate, Peter Coors, will be accepting the GOP nomination in the Colorado contest for retiring Ben Nighthorse Campbell's Senate seat this fall. Perhaps, she was just considering the cold one she would need after her grilling before the commission.
Doctor Rice's testimony focused almost exclusively on the official wall which had existed between domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence prior to 9/11 and that this "structural problem" had prevented critical information from being exchanged. Was this news to anyone? Did this add any detail to our understanding of how such a travesty could unfold without challenge? No.
I'm certain the commission members, indeed ANYONE with an ounce of sense, could have concluded that such a "structural problem" existed and that it was another tragic example of the sort of bureaucratic ossification which occurs when government mandates go unsupervised for any length of time. We, the people, had expected our government to protect our civil liberties while still pursuing the "bad guys" with vigor, tenacity, and smarts. Those charged with this task determined the only way to prevent their being hounded by the ACLU was to replace what should have been an osmotic membrane with a titanium barrier. Domestic law enforcement would not have ANY contact with foreign intelligence and vice versa. We didn't need Doctor Rice to point this out to us.
So why DID Condoleezza Rice appear before the commission? Was it simply because the White House had reconsidered it's hard-liner position relative to Congressional inquiries and found it a public relations nightmare in an election year? Possibly. We'll see how far this spirit of cooperation goes when (or if) they produce the contested Clinton era documents they had withheld earlier in the week.
Did she testify in order to further discredit former White House counter-terrorism "Czar" Dick Clarke? Again, possibly. Certainly she took every opportunity to minimize his role as just another advisor on the one hand and claim his authority to act as the glue between the FBI and CIA on the other. Since the White House found it necessary to create a new cabinet-level position specifically to coordinate domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence activities after 9/11, I find it hard to believe Clarke ever had such power before 9/11.
The truth is, we may never know if her public testimony had any value beside the obvious theatrical and political. I pray her earlier secret testimony before the commission provided the sort of useful, apolitical, and actionable detail lacking in her public appearance. Considering her unique position in the administration, that would certainly be one of the greatest tragedies of 9/11 if it had not.
April 6th, 2004 ~ I LIKE Ralph Nader. I LIKE his positions on SO many issues relevant to our nation's future. I LIKE that he's a "stand-up guy" who says what he means and means what he says. I LIKE that he has offered the first serious alternative to the Demopublicans since T.R.'s Bull Moose platform of the early 20th Century. I voted for him in 2000. I can't vote for him in 2004.
I am not a Democrat; never have been, never will be. Neither am I a Republican; never have been, never will be. I have always felt the "biparthied" government we've allowed dominion over us for so long is a sickly shadow of the vibrant body politic our revolutionary forfathers intended as their legacy. When I voted for Ralph in 2000, I wasn't "taking a vote away from Gore". Gore never had my vote to begin with. That said, I find I have no choice but to vote for John Kerry and whoever he picks for his running mate in 2004.
Back in 2000, Bush and Cheney were still an abstract threat and I felt (as, apparently many thounsands did), that we had the luxury of voting our conscience; of sending a clear statement to the status quo that we were looking for real change; not just a name change. In 2000, we saw the new millennium as a chance for new beginnings; a chance to reinvent ourselves politically as we have done so rarely since our revolutionary founding. Ralph Nader and his Green Party seemed to embody that bright spirit of rediscovery. It was a thrilling song they sang.
Bush and Cheney are no longer an abstract threat. They and their minions are very real and very scary to anyone who loves America. I, for one, cannot take the chance they will have four more years to plunder our land and our futures. The new millennium did not bring us new beginnings. The new millenmium brought us the most dissembling pack of weasels to latch onto our government since the Harding administration, arrogance for its own sake, repetitive noise posing as political discourse, and the ascension of the cult of secrecy. In this new millennium, the same old pirates chip away at our world, hoping we won't notice until it's too late. In this new millennium, just as in the old, our only hope is someone who at least began as an idealist, even if his idealism has since been tempered in the fire of pragmatic politics.
Had Ralph started his campaign when he should have, he would still not have a serious chance of unseating an incumbent with the sort of resources that have dined their way into Bush's warchest. I have no great expectations that Mr. Kerry, et al, will usher in a new era of government "...of the People, by the People, and for the People". For now, it is sufficient that he has seen the horrors of war with his own eyes. For now, it is sufficient he hears the desperate accounts of hard-working Americans who can't find work. For now, it is sufficient he shares our deep-seated love of the few wild places we've managed to snatch from the insatiable maw of the corporate eating machine.. For now, it is more than sufficient that John Kerry knows how to play the game to WIN.
Perhaps, someday, we will see another election where we have the luxury of considering a revitalizing alternative such as Mr. Nader. But this is not that day.