That Moment Of Crisis
Evidently, the 43rd president was not nearly as stupid or dumb as some made him out to be. Say what you will about George W. Bush as president- and most of its deserved- he has had the good sense as ex-president to do as little and say as little as possible.
Dick Cheney, however, is a different sort of fellow. Hosting a fundraiser in Wyoming for the presumptive presidential nominee of the Gas and Oil Party, the former V.P. remarked
Sooner or later there is going to be a big surprise. Usually a very unpleasant one. Whether it’s 9-11 or the other kinds of difficulties or crises that arrive, they always do. That’s when you find out what kind of leader your president is. When I think about the kind of individual I want in the Oval Office in that moment of crisis, who has to make those key decisions, some of them life and death decisions, some of them decisions as the commander-in-chief who has the responsibility of sending our young men and women into harm's way -- that man is Mitt Romney.
Cheney, oddly, wasn't referring to the kind of guy who would make the right decision about Osama bin Laden or Somali pirates. He was, presumably, talking about the Bush-Cheney administration. Or the Cheney-Bush administration.
You'd almost think the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 took place in the Obama administration, that it ignored the terrorist threat and was replaced by a Bush Administration which ramped up efforts, eventually ordering the elimination of Osama bin Laden. Instead, as early as October, 2002 the UK Guardian reported
According to today's Time magazine, Mr Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger and Mr Clarke outlined the threat in briefings they provided for Condoleezza Rice, George Bush's national security adviser, in January 2001, a few weeks before she and her team took up their posts.
At the key briefing, Mr Clarke presented proposals to "roll back" al-Qaida which closely resemble the measures taken after September 11. Its financial network would be broken up and its assets frozen. Vulnerable countries like Uzbekistan, Yemen and the Philippines would be given aid to help them stamp out terrorist cells.
Crucially, the US would go after Bin Laden in his Afghan lair. Plans would be drawn up for combined air and special forces operations, while support would be channelled to the Northern Alliance in its fight against the Taliban and its al-Qaida allies.
Mr Clarke, who stayed on in his job as White House counter-terrorism tsar, repeated his briefing for vice president Dick Cheney in February. However, the proposals got lost in the clumsy transition process, turf wars between departments and the separate agendas of senior members of the Bush administration.
It was, the Time article argues, "a systematic collapse in the ability of Washington's national security apparatus to handle the terrorist threat".
Documents released only last month by the C.I.A. include a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief written on 6/23/01 warned, under the sub-heading "International: Bin Laden Attacks May be Imminent," "multiple reports indicate that extremists expect Bin Laden to launch lattacks over the coming days, possibly against U.S. or Israeli interests." And there was one from 6/25/01 with the sub-heading "Terrorism: Bin Laden and Associates Making Near-Term Threats," which warned "Expect Usama Bin Laden to launch multiple attacks over the coming days." A document from five days later read "operative linked to Usama Bin Laden's organization expect the near-term attacks they are planning to have dramatic consequences, such as major casualties."
From June through September, there were four additional CIA Senior Intelligence Briefs maintaining attacks were imminent. But the Administration, whose National Security staff had ignored a CIA proposal to increase drone attacks, did not call a Principals' Meeting (downgraded to a Deputies' Meeting) until just days before the 9/11/01 attack.
Not all of the documents were revelations, some of the information having been contained in the 9/11 committee's report. And we learned a lot from publication in 2004 of Ron Suskind's "The One Percent Doctrine," which slammed Vice-President Cheney's fanatical approach to foreign policy. Most famously, while President Bush was in Crawford, enjoying what was tied with one of Richard Nixon's vacations as the longest vacation ever taken by a U.S. president, he was presented by a CIA briefer with the famous 8/6/01 Presidential Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike In U.S." Bush's reply: "All right, you've covered your ass now."
There is little doubt that Dick Cheney is suggesting that Mitt Romney would- well, we don't quite know quite what he could be thinking. From the evidence, though, it appears that the former Vice President envisions Mitt Romney as his kind of President, one who, when confronted with evidence of an imminent terrorist attack will go jet skiing, water skiing, maybe waterboarding.