. . . Tuesday August 3, 2004

The Perfect Political Storm?

One Saturday morning, my wife and I were watching a Travel Channel “documentary” on Las Vegas. After about ten minutes, she looked at me and said, “Let’s go there right now.”

And we called the airlines on the way to airport and within about three hours, we were aimlessly throwing money into the black hole that is our favorite nearby vacation destination.

It was, in our household of enabling codependency, a perfect storm.

We are, it seems, seeing the same kind of perfect storm in D.C. when it comes to the need to appoint an intelligence chief to oversee the various intel agencies.

The 9/11 commission has already set a new standard for being able to turn a report into a policy discussion (and soon into policy). Note to future such commissions looking to have an impact: Release your report across every type of media and do so about 12 weeks prior to a neck and neck election.

Almost immediately after the report was released, John Kerry backed its findings and suggestions in total. President Bush was less enthusiastic (he had of course resisted the formation of the commission in the first place), Condoleezza Rice insisted that such major shifts had to be examined closely, and the Senate planned to take the matters up in the early Fall.

A few days later, Bush was on television announcing (with a few distinctions) that he was behind the creation of this new layer of intelligence services (and the Senate was being urged to give up summer break).

It may not be entirely un-Bushlike to get out ahead of a rolling political freight train (remember, he was against the formation of the Dept of Homeland Security at first as well). But this was fast.

If Bush is merely tossing a bone to the political animals and will ultimately serve up a chief with no power, then this is yet another waste of time in an era with little to spare.

But what if it is just a rush job for political purposes? In a Washington Post editorial, Chuck Hagel explains: “If we allow the current national consensus for intelligence reform to become a tool in the partisan rancor of presidential politics, we risk doing enormous damage to our intelligence community. We must not allow false urgency dictated by the political calendar to overtake the need for serious reform. This is an enormous undertaking filled with consequences that will last a generation.”

There is an urgency to fix those things fixable when it comes to defending ourselves against terrorist attacks. But I wonder whether this campaign season frenzy to get into lockstep with the 9/11 panel has much basis in anything other than pure politics. If that simply means we get things done in a month that would’ve taken a year, then fine. I’m for it. But what I worry about is that we’ll be getting things done to get things done and because we are riding the tempestuous waves of that perfect political storm. It’s a bit scary, after all, when almost everyone suddenly agrees on something.

Last time that happened in my house, I ended up blowing a grand on video poker at The Venetian.

Concentration is important!