Jewish World Review June 5, 2002/ 24 Sivan, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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The spring fashion in flip-floppery | George W. Bush is one clever dude. We can only imagine how confused his enemies are, because he has thoroughly confused his friends.

The flip-flop is apparently the new fashion in manly footwear at the White House.

Only this week we learned that the administration, in a breathtaking U-turn, has conceded in a report to the United Nations that Bill and Hillary Clinton and their bright-green friends were right all along, that the globe is warming and "human activity" is responsible. That's the bad news. The good news is that the government doesn't intend to act on its revised convictions. The president's crack political consultants no doubt imagine that will satisfy one and all.

Some of the other flip-floppery has more immediate and graver implications. George W. first defines Iraq as the linchpin of the "axis of evil," warning the European weenies that like it or not he's going to do something about it. Then he sends Colin Powell off to Europe to grovel, to boast that the Bushies have mellowed, grown, healed and assumed all the other goo-goo attributes that are the mark of the very model of the oh-so-sensitive modern major generals.

Then it's off to West Point, where, evidently overcome by the ghosts of Lee and Jackson, of Grant and Sheridan, MacArthur and Patton, all hovering close over the plain above the Hudson, he warns the evildoers of the world in stern and emphatic language that the Cold War strategy of containment and deterrence is dead, that Americans will strike first to defend themselves. The only notice terrorists deserve is to wake up in hell.

"If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long," he tells the cadets. "We must take the battle to the enemy. The only path to safety is action, and this nation will act." Tough and eloquent stuff, but this is only Tuesday. (By Thursday or Friday the secretary of state may be back in Brussels.)

Stung by the mounting evidence of gross incompetence - or worse - in the security and intelligence services, embarrassed by credible assertions that someone in his administration should have known that September 11 was coming and he should have been alerted in time to do something about it, George W. praises Robert Mueller and George Tenet, who presided over the incompetence (or worse), as being his kind of guys. Good manners and loyalty to friends - even to Inspector Clouseau and Fearless Fosdick - is a Bush family trait.

Coleen Rowley, the agent in the Minneapolis office of the FBI who was on to Zacarias Moussaoui last summer and tried and failed to get someone in Washington to listen, says that "jokes were actually made that the key FBI headquarters personnel had to be spies or moles, like Robert Hanssen, who were actually working for Osama bin Laden." An experienced agent doesn't make "jokes" like that unless she's trying desperately to get a serious point to someone in authority. The reference to Hanssen, the FBI agent who sold national-security secrets to the Soviet Union in the last days of the Cold War, should be chilling enough for someone in Washington with enough testosterone to clean house.

Newsweek reports this week that the CIA chiefs sat on the evidence that could have prevented September 11. The agency actually tracked one of the suicide pilots from a planning session in Malaysia in early summer to the United States, even linking him to the bombing of the USS Cole. But the agency wouldn't share this information with either the FBI or the State Department, which routinely renewed his visa barely two months before he flew a plane into the Pentagon. Not to worry, said one CIA officer to the New York Times: Sharing the information with the FBI might not have prevented September 11, anyway. (Besides, what's more important, saving 3,000 American lives or keeping the FBI off CIA turf?)

The president understands the problem. "The FBI is changing its culture," he told an audience yesterday in Little Rock. "Now they've got a more important task, and that is to prevent further attack, and so the FBI is changing, and they're doing a better job of communicating with the CIA."

What the president might not understand is that saying it doesn't make it so. Leaving Inspector Clouseau and Fearless Fosdick in charge at the FBI and the CIA, where the screw-ups were not only not disciplined but promoted, might reassure George W., but it doesn't reassure the rest of us.

The FBI's assumption of vast new powers to pry into the affairs of the innocent - the Fearless Fosdick strategy of shooting everyone in the supermarket to make sure no one gets the can of poisoned beans - is likely only to empower the screw-ups still in charge to mismanage on a vastly larger and far more deadly scale.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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