April 18, 2002
It's not what you say, it's how you say it

Avedon Carol has been kind enough to mention my blog a couple of times lately, so I regret that my first mention of her blog is a disagreement. Regarding Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and her much-criticized remarks about what the government knew or may have known about the September 11 attacks, Carol quotes from McKinney's statement and then says

The thing is, they are all legitimate questions. The suggestion of impropriety in the Bush family relationship to the Carlyle Group and the bin Ladens is certainly more compelling than the one that still obsesses the Republicans about the Rich pardon, but there shouldn't even be questions asked? The warnings from before September 11 are well known and were known at the time even to observant members of the public. The FBI itself has complained about being actively prevented both before and after 9/11 from investigating the bin Ladens - including Osama. And George Bush's arrogance toward other world leaders, both before the tragedy at the WTC and since then, has not exactly ameliorated world tension. He appears to be throwing away the victory in Afghanistan and to have exacerbated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I've heard it said that McKinney is just blaming "us" for the attacks on 9/11, but I seem to have missed the part where she says that. As far as I can see, it's pretty generally accepted that bad guys arranged for those planes to fly into those buildings, and those bad guys aren't "us" - there is no need to keep reiterating this. But if there was incompetence and neglect in Washington that left us unnecessarily vulnerable to actions against us by others (or even natural disasters), then we need to know about it and make sure it is corrected. The absence of an investigation is itself more neglect. In fact, it is astonishing that there is anyone who is resisting such an investigation - unless, of course, they actually have something to hide. If you don't believe me, just ask your insurance company how they feel about you leaving your car unattended with the doors open.

Once again: The people who planned and executed the 9/11 attacks are the ones who are responsible for the attacks. But if the administration's neglect resulted in leaving us more vulnerable and unable to prevent the attacks or the amount of damage they did, we need to know - and if it's true, than it's not "us" who is responsible for that neglect, it's them. I'm not George Bush and I take no responsibility for his arrogance and incompetence. After all, we didn't even elect this guy.

I've read McKinney's statement, and I've read the WaPo article which contains a few juicier quotes. I agree with Carol that McKinney asks some good questions, but I don't think a government investigation is needed to answer them. I'm quite sure there are plenty of reporters and writers who are looking into all of these questions and more, and should any of them find something damning to the Bush presidency, I've no doubt it will the top story for weeks. If there's one thing we did learn from the Enron investigation, it's that Congressional committees are more about facetime for the panel chairs than getting to the bottom of things. Our press corps is frequently and justly maligned here in blogland, but there are a lot of pros working out there, and an actual smoking gun would be a hell of a coup for one of them.

Beyond that, it's the way McKinney framed her charges. It's not that she's blaming "us", it's that she's charging deliberate negligence on the part of the administration for the purpose of enriching their cronies in the oil and defense industries. That's a pretty damn serious charge to make, and it's also a pretty damn disingenuous one. McKinney is playing the game of throwing out a lot of disjointed facts and suggesting that there must be some kind of intent behind them. It's not quite as sleazy as the Clinton Death List, assuming that all of the things she alleges are in fact true, but it's first cousin to it. There is such a thing as coincidence in this world, and what's more there is such a thing as simple incompetence. There are likely many reasons why intelligence about the 9/11 attacks didn't get to the right people, and why those people didn't take action when they did know. I'm willing to bet a fair amount that most of those reasons boil down to the old saw about never attributing to malevolence that which can be ascribed to stupidity.

(Again, this is not to say that the reasons shouldn't be looked into and the guilty parties, such as they are, held responsible. If some State Department flunky buried a memo or impeded the FBI, that person should be fired. If the problem goes higher than that, I have faith it will come out and the political price will be paid.)

And I said that McKinney's charge was disingenuous. I say that because I'm also willing to bet that Al Gore, who is no stranger to oil money himself, has friends and cronies in the same businesses that are profiting right now from the war and related buildup in defense spending. Politics is full of rich people, and many of them have a few questionable income sources in their pasts and presents. We here on the left-hand side of the equation frequently point out that the GOP loves to score points off Democratic misdeeds while overlooking the same peccadilloes when a fellow Republican is involved, so I have to ask: Would McKinney be saying the same thing if 9/11 had gone down as it did with Al Gore in the White House? I kinda doubt it.

If Cynthia McKinney had merely spoken about the need to understand all that we could about how we can prevent another 9/11, no one would be up in arms about it. That's partly because no one would have heard what she said, since that wouldn't have been particularly newsworthy. McKinney knew how to get attention, and she got it. The fact that she had something worthwhile to say doesn't mitigate the slimy way in which she said it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 18, 2002 to National news