Conventional wisdom often is wrong. Consider this nugget: Republicans know more about getting tough with malcontents, waging war and keeping the United States safe.
Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, touts his military background and long tenure on the Senate's Armed Services Committee when trying to prove he's the most experienced person seeking the Oval Office this year. But there's a growing body of evidence about the depth of the Bush administration's incompetence that also reveals some uncomfortable truths about Congress and our national security community.
The latest example is detailed in a book written by New York Times investigative reporter Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission.
It's no secret that then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was forced to reveal during the commission's 2004 public hearings that Bush, while vacationing at his Texas ranch, received a presidential daily briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." As it turns out, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Shenon writes that Dubya received more than 40 briefings between January 2001 and Sept. 10, 2001, that included references and warnings about Osama bin Laden. Nearly identical intelligence reports were given to about 300 other senior intelligence officials and members of Congress, one of whom presumably was McCain. They included "Bin Laden Planning Multiple Operations" (April 20) and "Bin Laden Threats Are Real" (June 30).
Rice, however, never made an effort to discuss the issue with Bush, the book states.
A frustrated counter-terrorism director wrote to Rice on Sept. 4, 2001: "Are we serious about dealing with the al Qaeda threat? Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the (counter-terrorism unit) has not succeeded in stopping al-Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the U.S."
It should be remembered that Bush initially opposed creating an independent commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks. He also opposed having any of his staffers testify under oath or testifying publicly. Small wonder.
Pre-9/11, the Bush administration was almost solely focused on creating a missile defense system to use against a Soviet-era style foe, a strategy that appeared tough while providing lucrative contracts to weapons manufacturers.
Bush's presidency is one of the most hawkish ever, but the record shows its judgment and insight on national security matters is grossly lacking. Whoever the Democratic presidential nominee is this fall, the person should hammer the Republican Party's supposed credentials on issues of war and security.
McCain has said he didn't oppose launching the Iraq War, just how it was conducted in its early years. The Arizona senator also is a longtime supporter of what he's called "rogue state rollback," using military power against anti-democratic regimes worldwide.
Let's hope whoever answers that phone at 3 a.m. come next January does a better job than Bush.
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