Monday, April 12, 2004

George Will: Rice and Clarke

George Will is typically wise in his April 9 column: Rice and Clarke:
" Stripped of their score-settling over perceived professional slights, Clarke's conflicting versions of 10 years of counterterrorism policy, distilled to their essence, support the essential point of Rice's testimony. It is:

The processes of the federal government, and especially of the many agencies in its national security apparatus, had before 9/11 -- and Rice says they still have -- a thickness, a bureaucratic viscosity that are normal aspects of bureaucracies. But in these abnormal times this coagulating river of fudge unacceptably compromises national security.

So Rice's testimony was invaluable pedagogy for a public that thinks it knows what a blunt and cumbersome instrument government is, but that doesn't know the half of it. The commission's public hearings give viewers a glimpse of the texture of institutional life within which presidents struggle to process information and defeat institutional inertia. The hearings frame a -- arguably, the -- great question of this election year: Both presidential candidates want to keep America safe, but which one has the attributes -- the world view and sheer orneriness -- needed to stir the fudge and make it flow?"