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The Pitfalls of Conventional Thinking

There hasn't been a Democratic or Republican convention in recent memory that was scheduled to take place quite as late in the summer as the GOP Convention is scheduled to take place in 2004. Considering this curious timing, and the tragic significance of this period for New York, the city chosen for the 2004 Republican Convention, it is should be obvious that Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie hoped that they would be able to exploit the national trauma of 9/11 for purely partisan purposes one final time. But events like this week's 9/11 Commission public hearings, and the publication of former Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 staff member Richard Clarke's book, “Against All Enemies”, may conspire to make the GOP planning for this event as faulty as their planning for the Iraq invasion itself.

GOP convention delegates are likely to be met by large, angry protests by New Yorkers who do not feel more secure as a result of Bush Administration policy since the destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers. It is quite likely that, by this same time, voters around the country will also have begun to take note of the Bush Administrations' numerous failures with regard to 9/11. These failures include both: 1) their inability to prevent the actual attack; and 2) approaching Richard Clarke's urgent pleas for a “principals meeting” on the threat represented by the terrorists who had attacked the USS Cole as only worthy of a “deputies meeting” during the seven month period leading up September 2001. These voters may even note that while Dick Cheney, the architect of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, was too focused on icy bureaucratic protocol to arrange a "principals meeting", protocol did not prevent the Vice-President from meeting with executives of various energy companies, including Enron, during that same period. They may also wonder about the credibility and competency of an Administration who today defend themselves against Clarke's charges by asserting that their White House Policy Coordinator on Terrorism was somehow "out of the loop" on Bush Administration plans to deal with the threat of al Queda. Doesn't common sense dictate that their designated point man should have been at the center of those plans? And if Clarke was indeed kept "out of the loop", what does that tell us about the Bush Administration? How incredibly dysfunctional an organization must it be?

If events come to pass as I expect, then Richard Clarke's chilling public testimony yesterday should be seen as the fuse that set off an explosion of righteous American outrage and disgust at an Administration too focused on ideological obsessions to fulfill their principal Constitutional requirement to protect the nation “against all enemies”. And Dubya, Rove, Cheney and Gillespie may wish that they were meeting in another, less bitterly symbolic locale.

Matthew Carnicelli © 2004. All rights reserved.

Originally published March 25, 2004.