Americans are paying attention now

The strength of the White House leadership is its appeal to intellectual mediocrity.

I worry these days about the American people. So does Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Apparently, and according to Frist, many Americans are confused by the contradictory information created during last week’s hearings by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

For any already confused readers, the aforementioned commission is investigating what did and did not happen on and before Sept. 11, regarding terrorism prevention. While I happen to think a little more confusion would be good regarding the oppressive conformity with which the current history of Sept. 11 has been written, Frist means something else. I understand him to say, although not explicitly, that many Americans are beginning to think about what happened on Sept. 11 – maybe even think critically about the Bush administration and current U.S. foreign policy, especially in Iraq.

Without a doubt the Clinton administration is involved as well, but it seems more often than not the Bush staffers involved in security issues like to talk about the previous administration’s failures and not their own.

All of this brings me to Richard Clarke’s new book, “Against All Enemies,” which I have not read and do not have any plans to read, the main reason being that the public testimony Clarke gave (which I did listen to) did not involve any new information. Most of the critical points Clarke is making have been made over the last three and a half years by several different people at all levels of government. Yet, given the less-than-brand-new quality of Clarke’s information, the White House reaction has been off the scale, suggesting that the Bush-Cheney re-election staff is scared that people will start paying attention to the news.

That will not do.

The strength of the current White House leadership (across the board) is its appeal to American intellectual mediocrity. Not only does the White House rely on a population dimly aware of most topics, it feeds the mediocrity by constantly obscuring any criticism of official policy. The problem with Clarke has been his refusal to back down under exterior pressure. So now, the White House has to yield the moral high ground in hopes of avoiding an exposure of the conspiracy of bungling orchestrating official U.S. policy.

Most importantly, however, Clarke is part of the growing number of voices all explaining why the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism are unrelated situations. He’s right, of course, but it does not matter. Unfortunately, we confused Americans always think we can get policy right later, down the road, to make up for past mistakes by admitting some 20 years on we were wrong. Along the way all the mistakes committed without much critical consideration often mean many people, in countries we cannot find on maps, die.

Herein lies the true majesty of last week’s events regarding the investigation into the events of Sept. 11. It is the first real showdown over how and who will write the history of that day. Chances are good both the Bush and Clinton administrations will not find safe harbor when the historians begin looking, in detail, at what transpired. But more importantly, linking the war in Iraq with anything having to do with the war on terrorism will be shown to be completely fictitious. This will become the legacy of President George W. Bush and his advisers know it. Bush will admit no wrongs, and neither he nor his staff will ever concede error; that will be their immediate and long-term undoing.

So, are you confused yet by the terrifying specter of critical thought?

Well, don’t worry too hard – I tend to think the work being done by the Sept. 11 commission, while valuable, is two years too late. Had the commission’s work begun in early 2002 with public hearings, the now-confused American public would have been a great deal more critical about the Bush presidency. And that makes his re-election almost impossible.

John Troyer welcomes comments at [email protected]