Jonah Goldberg

Yes, "everyone" is to blame for 9/11. "Everyone" is also to blame for the outrageous, silly and counterproductive nonsense coming out of the 9/11 commission's quest to assign blame.

Let's take the second point first. Bush made a strategic blunder by essentially insisting he would not do anything differently if he could relive the pre-9/11 months over again. This is not only obvious nonsense, it's politically dumb.

The Bush campaign wants to run on its post-9/11 leadership not its pre-9/11 leadership. But by refusing to acknowledge, even rhetorically, the obvious fact that the government failed when the terrorists succeeded, they created the perfect incentives for political posturing, moral preening and partisan grandstanding from the 9/11 commission, the media, a tiny number of "9/11 families," the Democrats and, yes, the public.

An example: The New York Times editorialized this week, "No reasonable American blames Mr. Bush for the terrorist attacks, but that's a long way from thinking there was no other conceivable action he could have taken to prevent them."

"Conceivable"? Yes, there were all sorts of conceivable actions the president could have taken. He could have interned Muslim-Americans like FDR did with the Japanese. He could have grounded the airlines. He could have declared war on Afghanistan. All of these thing were "conceivable." But since when is "conceivable" the standard for governmental conduct, even in hindsight? The fair - or at least fairer - question is, did Bush take every reasonable action to prevent the 9/11 attacks?

The Times went on to offer some "conceivable" actions the president might have taken after receiving that notorious Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing, namely he should have flown back to D.C. and demanded that airlines start "screening passengers" to fit their "threat profiles."

Considering that it'd been reported in Time magazine in 1998 that government officials believed Osama bin Laden was determined to attack inside the United States, I'm not sure the president should have raced back to Washington from his ranch in August 2001.

But I am 100 percent sure that the folks at The New York Times editorial board would have snapped their pencils in rage if the president had suggested increased "profiling" of passengers in August 2001, let alone proposed the Patriot Act - which the Times detests - and never mind doing everything "conceivable."

This blame game stuff is counterproductive and dangerous when Americans are fighting and dying in Iraq. But if that's the game we're stuck with, it's an indisputable scandal that the Clinton Administration is getting off scot-free.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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