The last week has seen a couple of interesting developments in the Tenet/Bush conflict. My predictions and thoughts about these will no doubt be as accurate as my predictions and thoughts about the Iraq war. Which is to say “semi.”
Most recently, the Pentagon broke the news that Tenet asked Rumsfeld to illegally hide a prisoner from the Red Cross. It is no accident that the Pentagon made this statement right now; it’s the first salvo in an attempt to reduce Tenet’s standing in the court of public opinion.
Second, earlier this week, the 9/11 commission put the Bush administration into a clever fork by releasing their report on Saddam/Al Qaeda links. The commission stated clearly that there were no such links, only a few days after Cheney reasserted that links existed.
This in and of itself is not really a big deal; the Bush administration can and will claim that the 9/11 commission is simply wrong. However, this puts them in a bind. After criticizing the commission’s reporting on links between Saddam and Al Qaeda, it’s going to be difficult to turn around and embrace the commission when it reports that Tenet was partially at fault for 9/11. While it’s possible to say that the commission got it right in the one instance but wrong in the other, it’s not easy, and I don’t think Bush can pull off that balancing trick right now. Tenet’s utility as a fall guy is thus reduced.
I don’t think this was deliberate on the part of the commission, by the by. It’s just a coincidence that the timing puts Bush in a fork with regard to the Tenet matter.