Ron Brownstein's article in today's LA Times does a good job matching up public opinion and the Bush administration on some frequently confused and transposed issues.
The 9/11 Commission is connected to Iraq, though not in its charter. There was never evidence connecting Saddam with Al Q, OBL, and/or the 9/11 attacks. A frightening number of polls, however, show that too many Americans think Saddam orchestrated, or at least had a large role in 9/11. So where does the Commissions work - and the recend Clarke v. Condi scuffle fit into the bigger electoral - and moral - picture?
Attacking Bush on 9/11 could be a third rail. But his handling of 9/11 and of Iraq aren't wholly independent:
That's one point from Clarke on which Bush supporters and critics probably could agree. The failures before Sept. 11 have many fathers. But the war in Iraq belongs to Bush alone. It is the centerpiece of his short-term strategy for suppressing terrorism. It is the cornerstone of his long-term vision of curbing anti-American extremism by encouraging democracy in the Islamic world.
If most Americans conclude the war is failing to achieve those goals, or even undermining them, the public is likely to render a far tougher verdict on Bush than it has for his actions before Sept. 11.
So there you have it - a pretty good way of dividing and uniting the issue at the same time. I don't know if anything could've stopped 9/11 - and though I think that Bush does at least come off as a little "whatevs" on the issue - I could be persuaded to give him the benefit of the doubt (could be). But if the reason why he was so checked-out on the building threat was that he was searching for reasons to go after Iraq - then the issue isn't really one to forgive, is it?
If you proceed through your job with blinders on; if you begin a search not for the truth but for evidence to create your own reality; if you do these things and then something like 9/11 happens, it is your fault. It might not have been under other circumstances.
Since 9/11, then, as the article points out, he has less of an excuse. If we are again attacked, we will at least have concrete proof, in the form of headstones, that Bush was focused on things other than actual terrorists threats. Whereas before he could talk his way out - now, he couldn't.
The 9/11 attacks and the Iraq war have been both overly conflated and overly separated recently. Bloodshed is the bottom line that ties them together. That the Administration tried initially to pin 9/11 on Iraq (and doesn't go out of its way to dispell that belief) combined with its lie-ladden reasons for invading Iraq should leave any true-blooded American cold with fury. It doesn't - yet.
It's my dream that soon those who ask "are we any safer today" won't be greeted with insults and questioning voices, but will be appreciated for seeking the truth - for connecting the dots correctly, stepping back to appreciate the big picture, rather than remaining myopicly mired in Bush and the neocon's pointillistic fantasy.