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The 9/11 Commission has been mostly a dog-and-pony show for venting a lot of rage and frustration and for generating a lot of partisan blame-throwing for supposed security lapses that led to the deaths of 3,000 Americans in the worst attack on American soil ever. It's one of those political exercises that you know is obligatory, under the circumstances of its time, but the public aspect of it will only serve to reward grandstanding and the press that covers it.
A great example of this is the griping by members of the commission and the press about NSA Director Condoleezza Rice's insistence on testifying in private. If the point of this process is for the panel to make a determination of how we can avoid another 9/11, then private testimony from someone who is actively pursuing terrorists shouldn't keep the commission from doing its job. But when commissioners like former Senator Bob Kerrey publicly speculate on how they'd rip her apart in public questioning, then you know the point isn't to search for truth but to make headlines for its members.
That being said, it's apparent that Kerrey has rapidly become the star of the televised hearings -- which leads one to wonder whether the Democrats have the wrong Kerr(e)y in the presidential race:
Bob Kerrey is speaking in italics and exclamation points again. The former senator from Nebraska holds nothing back as a member of the Sept. 11, 2001, commission taking public testimony this week. He has a friendly face, he smiles like Tom Hanks, but don't get him started on how many times al Qaeda got away with attacking U.S. interests in the eight years before Sept. 11 with little retaliation.
"What we have is a serial killer on our hands" -- Osama bin Laden.
"We had a round in our chamber and we didn't use it."
"Honestly, I don't understand if we're attacked and attacked and attacked and attacked, why we continue to send the FBI over like the Khobar Towers was a crime scene or the East African Embassy bombings was a crime scene."
The witnesses -- top officials of the Clinton and Bush administrations -- take it like a breaking wave that briefly knocks them speechless. But family members of the Sept. 11 victims in the front rows break into applause after another display of Kerrey's passion. They trust him to get at the truth of what led up to the terrorist attacks and how future attacks might be prevented.
It's difficult to dispute Kerrey's arguments, and there's no doubt that he's connecting emotionally with all sides on this debate. Pundits from all points in the political spectrum have expressed admiration for Kerrey, who retired from politics a couple of years ago after having made an extraordinary admission of guilt for war crimes in Viet Nam. His anger and his barbed questioning of everyone who comes before the committee fits the national mood, at least outside the Beltway, which is that a lot of people from both parties dropped the ball on terrorism over the past decade or so.
Will there be a political future once again for Bob Kerrey? Possibly, although his retirement from politics was completely self-imposed; I'm sure he could have won his seat again had he chosen to stand for re-election. However, his participation in this commission has given Kerrey a national identity that he couldn't win for himself in his failed bid for President twelve years ago, and if he came back at all, I think it would be to do something more significant than the Senate.
I wonder if we'll see a Kerry-Kerrey ticket in November, because I think it would take Bob Kerrey to carry John Kerry to the White House.Sphere It View blog reactions
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