Jewish World Review May 23, 2002 / 12 Sivan, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Political terrorists | Sen. Tom Daschle D-S.D., and Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., are a lot like Yasser Arafat. They launch terror attacks from ambush. When their attacks go awry, they deny ever having intended to do anyone harm.

Truth be told, the Democratic leaders in the Senate and House are desperate to do harm to George W. Bush. His popularity is casting a shadow over Democratic prospects in the midterm elections.

"We have to get Bush," a senior Democratic staffer in the Senate told the American Prowler. "Bush's polling numbers weren't moving down. He was bulletproof. Everyone was under orders to keep their eyes and ears open for anything we could use."

The latest weapon was supplied by the White House itself, which had turned over to the House and Senate intelligence committees some of the materials prepared by the CIA for the president's daily briefing, as part of the ongoing review of the CIA's analysis of potential terror threats prior to Sept. 11.

One sentence in a two-page document speculated that Osama bin Laden's operatives may attempt to hijack an airliner. A Democrat staffer leaked the memo to CBS News.

The warning was too vague to do much about, Bush aides, said, in that it lacked information about where, when and how such attacks might take place. "We knew if we could get something out there, the media wouldn't try to put the leak into political perspective for the public," said the American Prowler's source. "As usual, the press did our job for us."

"The media beast was so happy to have a scandal here that we jumped up and down and waved our arms and got all excited about it," said Newsweek editor Evan Thomas.

The day after CBS broke the story, Daschle, Gephardt and other Democratic leaders implied Bush knew the Sept. 11th attacks were in the wind, and was guilty of negligence - or worse - for failing to prevent them.

"What did the president know, and when did he know it?" asked Gephardt rhetorically, using the Watergate formulation.

"Why did it take us so long to get this information?" Daschle asked. The short answer to Daschle's question is that the Intelligence committees had received the same information at about the same time. Daschle and Gephardt may just have shot their mouths off before asking their colleagues on the Intelligence committees what they knew, and when they knew it. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., who is thinking about running against Bush in 2004, doesn't have that excuse.

The intelligence tidbits Bush received "should have set off bells and whistles" in the administration, Edwards said. But Edwards is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He got the basically the same information as Bush did, at about the same time. It didn't set off any bells and whistles with him.

Edwards first denied he had been briefed on the information. But when pressed by a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal, said: "I don't specifically remember discussions about hijacking, but I suspect hijacking could have been part of that discussion."

The word "hijacking" failed to set off the alarms then that it does now because before Sept. 11th, hijacking meant an unscheduled trip to Cuba or Beirut, not turning an airliner into a flying bomb.

Journalists who are trying to flog this nonstory note that in 1995, and again in 1999, two different intelligence analyses speculated that (among other things) al Qaeda might attempt to hijack an airliner and fly it into buildings. But George W. Bush wasn't president in 1995, or in 1999.

This is why Democratic efforts to smear Bush on Sept. 11th are likely to be as ineffective as Democratic efforts to smear Bush on Enron. The farther down the trail of evidence we go, the more we see the footprints of Bush's predecessor.

Gephardt seems to understand this. On the talk shows last Sunday he was, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, "backpedalling faster than the Boston Celtics trying to defend Jason Kidd."

"I never, ever thought that anybody, including the president, ever did anything up to 9/11 other than their best," Gephardt said on Fox News Sunday.

Comment on JWR contributor Jack Kelly's column by clicking here.

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© 2002, Jack Kelly