Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Clinton's Eight Years; Bush's Eight Months 

I keep reading and hearing the argument that Clinton made to Chris Wallace last Sunday that Bush didn't do anything about al Qaeda in his first eight months in the White House, so don't pick on Ol' Bill because "At least Ah trahd."

If I recall correctly, Bush's first eight months were primarily consumed with getting his own appointees into the government to replace Clinton's folks, and the Democrat-controlled Senate was not in any hurry to confirm many of the lower-tier appointees. See this WaPo item by Brookings scholar Paul C. Light.

Now, it may be true (I don't know) that most if not all of the appointees who had anything to do with national security had been appointed and confirmed by the Senate by the middle of August, 2001, but I know from my own experience that it takes a while to get up to speed in any new job, and if it involves complex organizations and issues, it will take a minimum of three months, more like six, to become minimally effective in a new position. Add to that the fact that in departments like Defense and State the entrenched bureaucrats will always tend to do things the way they always have and it's a safe bet that the Bush Administration was largely well down on the learning curve on September 11.

Even if the Clinton Administration had presented the Bushies with a fully-formed battle plan for going after bin Laden in Afghanistan on January 20, it seems to me unlikely that, with all the issues that accompany not only a change in administrations but a change in party, the new administration was in a position to focus on what was then deemed to be a real, but not catastrophic, threat.

From where I sit, the Clinton Administration was overlawyered and, as lawyers often will, they concentrated way too much on process and procedure and not enough on the quickest and best way to achieve their desired result.

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