Sometimes the current political situation seems like the best of all possible worlds. On our side, a master politician in the White House; on the other side, a party that seems only semi-serious about the defining issue of our times — the war on terrorism. But this week we were reminded that the semi-serious opposition, and even the master politician, can be mixed blessings. I’m referring to the imminent passage of intelligence reorganization legislation.
The legislation essentially adopts the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. As discussed here and in the links contained here, little in that commission’s performance suggests that it should be the final arbiter on matters pertaining to intelligence. Nor do the recommendations themselves. As one would expect of a body dominated by liberals (liberal Republican chairman Thomas Kean and an array of liberal and mostly opportunistic Democrats), the commission recommended the creation of an intelligence uber-bureaucracy and a diminution of Defense Department’s ability to control battlefield intelligence, while essentially ignoring major immigration concerns that go to the heart of our ability to combat terrorism in this country. That’s the downside of a semi-serious opposition party.
It was then up to the master politician to sell this package to skeptical Republicans in Congress, or decline to do so. The Democrats, the MSM, and the 9/11 families (at least those covered by the MSM) clamored for the president to use his vaunted “political capital” to beat down Republican opposition, as if taking the path of least resistance constitutes using up political capital. The feckless Kean fronted for the liberal Democrats, going so far as to suggest that, without this legislation, another attack on the homeland was inevitable. With the ante raised to this level, the smart political move became clear — push the flawed bill through (with an arguably helpful modification on the issue of battlefield intelligence), leaving the Democrats no room to profit from a successful terrorist attack. The president acted accordingly.
So, in the end, neither party gained an advantage from the intelligence reform process, nor did the American people.
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