May 24, 2002

How to confuse a Superpower…

On Tuesday, Ari Fleischer, presumably speaking for the president, admitted that the recent terror alerts were issued in part because of criticism about how the administration handled intelligence “warnings.” On Wednesday evening, speaking to Larry King on CNN, the vice president emphatically denied that criticism played any role in the alerts. This morning, Jules Witcover takes a look at the disparity between imminent attack and our current state of “yellow” alert. He asks: If there’s more “chatter” in the system, why haven’t we moved to orange alert?

There are some legitimate questions that the administration needs to answer. But what I think we see here in this confusion is, well, confusion. Avoiding open inquiry, a goal of the VP’s recent tactics (see below), merely exacerbates the confusion. We spent the Cold War preparing for conflict with the Soviet Union. Instead, we are faced with well-financed, affluent, “Muslim fundamentalists” willing to fly passenger jets into skyscrapers. How do you deal with that? What we are discovering is that there is no simple answer that will satisfy our sound-bite culture.

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