But Saudi flack Prince Bandar has extensive personal relationships with top Washington policy-makers -- he used to play racquetball with Colin Powell -- and knows the way to official Washington's heart: cash. The Saudis make a practice, for instance, of buying former U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia. "If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office," Bandar once said, "you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office."
So, when a terrorist conspiracy with Saudi links murders 3,000 Americans, the Saudis are treated very gently. Coddling the Saudis has become an ingrained Washington habit. The Bush administration does not usually skimp on tough rhetoric, but has hardly said a discouraging public word about the Saudis, and now is actively keeping such words from being published.
The administration probably tells itself it is somehow doing "moderates" in the Saudi government a favor. But the U.S. government has a moral obligation to give the American public as much information as possible about what forces led to the mass murder of 9-11. And embarrassment is something the Saudis need more of. Craven above all, the Saudis will respond to public pressure, so long as the United States doesn't keep them from feeling it.
The Democrats have been flailing for most of the past two years, attempting to find some way to criticize Bush's handling of the war on terror. Most of the criticisms have been bogus, but the overly solicitous attitude toward Riyadh is a ripe and legitimate target. Here's hoping that Democrats fix on it in earnest. It's not just in their partisan self-interest -- it is their patriotic duty.