Did Ashcroft Intimidate the 9/11 Commission?

Slate has a couple of good articles up about Bush’s speech and Ashcroft’s testimony. What this usually means is that we can expect to see a couple of crappy articles soon for balance, to protect Slate against the charge that they’ve gone all liberal and shit. (But I suppose I should be grateful and not complain so much.)

Molly Ivins summed up Bush’s Texas character in three words: pious, macho, and anti-intellectual. Saletan describes a man detached from reality and perhaps borderline mentally-ill. Partly in response to his article, I ended up fearing that Bush might win the election even after all the rational conservatives (Richard Clarke, George Will) have jumped ship, leaving us with a lame-duck President who owes nothing at all to anyone who has a brain. After all, he “means what he says”, and the voters seem to like that.

Kaplan’s piece asks why Ashcroft was treated so gently by the 9/11 commission, which allowed him to blame various Clinton-administration people and did not confront him about his own inaction. Ashcroft, who put a low priority on counterterrorism and denied requests for more funding, is really the most vulnerable member of the Bush administration, but the commission didn’t even touch him.

Kaplan speculates about various plausible reasons for this, but leaves out the possibility that the commission had been intimidated. Ashcroft will almost certainly remain Attorney General for the next nine months, and might well serve for four years after that. He’s an utterly ruthless true believer who controls police powers (many of them as-yet unused) which are unprecedented in American history. Perhaps the members of the commission all decided that they didn’t dare make an enemy of a man like that.

Those are two pretty chilling possibilities. Bush’s support is steadily eroding, but we can expect a savage counterattack, and Bush has gotten out of the last two or three weeks a lot better off than he deserved to.

Trust, Don’t Verify (Saletan in Slate)

Ashcroft Gets a Free Pass (Kaplan in Slate)