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The Iraq Commission

I'm still mystified by the Bush appointments to the commission on pre-war intelligence about Iraq's WMD. Obviously, for reasons that other resourceful bloggers developed within hours, Judge Laurence Silberman violated the ethical obligations of the bench by his fierce activisim in the anti-Clinton quasi-legal skullduggery (activities that, as far as I know he has not denied), and is therefore no more qualified to chair such a commission than Henry Kissinger was the 9/11 commission. I presume that only the fact that Bush's AWOL status suddenly flared back up as the issue of the moment prevented the Silberman question from being the issue of the day. This administration has always been very savvy about the fact that the press and even the blogs can only handle one outrage at a moment. But let's hope we get back to this one.

I don't share the view of some of the bloggers that former Senator Chuck Robb is compromised here. His career is over, and he was defeated by a Bush crony -- Senator George Allen. He's capable of being a tough and plain-speaking guy, almost like McCain, and he was just so paralyzed by attacks and pseudo-scandals over his Senate career that nothing ever came of it. He's not going to play the role that Max Cleland played on the 9/11 commission, but I doubt he'll be a pushover here other. He's got nothing to lose.

And some of the other members of the commission are surprisingly good. I've come to know Judge Pat Wald a little bit in the last year, and she is extraordinary -- very well-versed in international issues as well as the law. And McCain -- that appointment is just amazing. McCain doesn't just give "the appearance of independence" -- he actually is independent. And he won't be sheepish in the least.

Trying to figure out the McCain appointment, though, I was reminded of something I was once told was the general wisdom around the House and Senate intelligence committees: "They don't tell you enough that you really know what's going on, but they tell you just enough that you can't say anything" without compromising classified information. In other words, exposing someone like McCain to just enough classified material is actually a good way to silence someone who might be a forceful critic whether on the commission or not. This only works with people who are actual patriots, however.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on February 6, 2004 | Permalink


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Not sure I agree on McCain. He's been campaigning for Bush and was on one of the Sunday news shows repeating the "Clinton had the same intelligence" line over and over again, clearly coached. He also said then and later that he does not believe the intelligence was manipulated. And yet, Atrios has a post on a WSJ journal today that says diagrams Bush claimed we'd found in Afghanistan do not exist. In the comments section to that post c.c. posted the url below to a Knight-Ridder story in the Seattle Times that gives examples of how the public version of the intelligene estimate was redacted, with caveats and contradictory opinions edited out. The fact that McCain would even agree to sit on the committee, given its extremely narrow remit, raises doubts about how he views his role these days. Silberman is outrageous of course, but I've read good things about Pat Wald and it's nice to hear them seconded by you.

Posted by: cs | Feb 10, 2004 6:26:55 PM

McCain was as hell-bent as Bush on getting us into Iraq. His powers of self-reflection are a bit more developed than Bush's, but he might not want to make himself out to be a complete ass in hindsight.

Posted by: | Feb 11, 2004 9:58:51 AM

McCain has already exonerated Bush, and is campaigning for him. So much for 'independence.'

Posted by: MattB | Feb 11, 2004 10:30:58 AM

I agree with what's been said about McCain in the comments, but I would like to point something out:

"So much for 'independence.'"

Being independent (while belonging to a political party) means you don't tow the party line and that you think for yourself. It doesn't mean that you are anti-Bush or always alone in the wilderness. Perhaps McCain really thinks that Bush was mislead and that the war in Iraq was just. He came to the conclusion himself, although I myself highly disagree with it.

Posted by: Bolo | Feb 11, 2004 2:54:24 PM

I predict a Bush-McCain ticket.


Posted by: Name | Feb 12, 2004 7:17:16 PM

Past time for Team B. Some suggestions: Hans Blix, Joe Wilson and Valerie Palme, Robin Cook, etc. They don't need access. They have had it.

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