SENATOR ZELL MILLER
"Mr. President, after watching the harsh acrimony generated by the September 11 Commission - which, let me say at the outset, is made up of good and able members - I have come to seriously question this panel's usefulness. I believe it will ultimately play a role in doing great harm to this country, for its unintended consequences, I fear, will be to energize our enemies and demoralize our troops.
After being drowned in a tidal wave of all who didn't do enough before 9/11, I have come to believe that the Commission should issue a report that says:
"No one did enough. In the past, no one did near enough."
And then thank everybody for serving, send them home, and let's get on with the job of protecting this country in the future. Tragically, these hearings have proved to be a very divisive diversion for this country. Tragically, they have devoured valuable time looking backward, instead of looking forward.
Can you imagine handling the attack on Pearl Harbor this way?
Can you imagine Congress, the media, and the public standing for this kind of political gamesmanship and finger-pointing after that day of infamy in 1941?
Some partisans tried that ploy, but they were soon quieted by the patriots who understood how important it was to get on with the war and take the battle to America's enemies and not dwell on what FDR knew, when.
You see, back then the highest priority was to win a war, not to win an election.
That is what made them the greatest generation. I realize that many well-meaning Americans see these hearings as democracy in action. Years ago when I was teaching political science, I probably would have had my class watching it live on television and using that very same phrase with them. There are also the not-so-well-meaning political operatives who see these hearings as an opportunity to score cheap points. And then there are the media meddlers who see this as great theater that can be played out on the evening news and on endless talk shows for a week or more.
Congressional hearings have long been one of Washington's most entertaining pastimes. Joe McCarthy, Watergate, Iran-Contra--they all kept us glued to the TV and made for conversations around the water coolers or arguments over a beer at the corner pub. A congressional hearing in Washington, DC is the ultimate aphrodisiac for political groupies and partisan punks. But it is not the groupies, punks, and television-sotted American public that I am worried about. This latter crowd can get excited and divided over just about anything, whether it is some off-key wannabe dreaming of being the American idol, or what brainless bimbo "The Bachelor" or "Average Joe" will choose, or who Donald Trump will fire next week.
No, it is the real enemies of America that I am concerned about. These evil killers who right now are gleefully watching the shrill partisan finger-pointing of these hearings and grinning like a mule eating briars. They see this as a major split within the great Satan, America.
They see anger. They see division, instability, bickering, peevishness, and dissension. They see the President of the United States hammered unmercifully. They see all this, and they are greatly encouraged.
We should not be doing anything to encourage our enemies in this battle between good and evil. Yet these hearings, in my opinion, are doing just that.
We are playing with fire. We are playing directly into the hands of our enemy by allowing these hearings to become the great divider they have become. Dick Clarke's book and its release coinciding conveniently with these hearings have done this country a tremendous disservice, and some day we will reap its whirlwind.
Long ago, Sir Walter Scott observed that revenge is "the sweetest morsel that ever was cooked in hell." The vindictive Clarke has now had his revenge, but what kind of hell has he, his CBS publisher, and his axe-to-grind advocates unleashed?
These hearings, coming on the heels of the election the terrorists influenced in Spain, bolster and energize our evil enemies as they have not been energized since 9/11. Chances are very good that these evil enemies of America will attempt to influence our 2004 election in a similar dramatic way as they did Spain's. And to think that could never be in this country is to stick your head in the sand.
That is why the sooner we stop this endless bickering over the past and join together to prepare for the future, the better off this country will be. There are some things -- whether this city believes it or not -- that are just more important than political campaigns. The recent past is so ripe for political second-guessing, "gotcha," and Monday morning quarterbacking.
And it is so tempting in an election year. We should not allow ourselves to indulge that temptation. We should put our country first. Every administration, from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, bears some of the blame. Dick Clarke bears a big heap of it, because it was he who was in the catbird's seat to do something about it for more than a decade.
Tragically, that was the decade in which we did the least. We did nothing after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, killing six and injuring more than a thousand Americans. We did nothing in 1996 when 16 U.S. servicemen were killed in the bombing of the Khobar Towers. When our embassies were attacked in 1998, killing 263 people, our only response was to fire a few missiles on an empty tent.
Is it any wonder after that decade of weak-willed responses to murderous terror, our enemies thought we would never fight back? In the 1990s is when Dick Clarke should have resigned. In the 1990s is when he should have apologized.
That is when he should have written his book -- that is, if he really had America's best interests at heart. Now, I know some will say we owe it to the families to get more information about what happened in the past, and I can understand that. But no amount of finger-pointing will bring our victims back. So now we owe it to the future families and all of America now in jeopardy not to encourage more terrorists, resulting in even more grieving families -- perhaps many times over the ones of 9/11. It is obvious to me that this country is rapidly dividing itself into two camps -- the wimps and the warriors: the ones who want to argue and assess and appease, and the ones who want to carry this fight to our enemies and kill them before they kill us.
In case you have not figured it out, I proudly belong to the latter. This is a time like no other time in the history of this country. This country is being crippled with petty partisan politics of the worst possible kind. In time of war, it is not just unpatriotic. It is stupid. It is criminal.
So I pray that all this time, all this energy, all this talk, and all of the attention could be focused on the future instead of the past. I pray we would stop pointing fingers and assigning blame and wringing our hands about what happened on that day David Acuology has called "the worst day in all our history" more than two years ago, and instead, pour all our energy into how we can kill these terrorists before they kill us -- again.
Make no mistake about it: They are watching these hearings and they are scheming and smiling about the distraction and the divisiveness that they see in America. And while they might not know who said it years ago in America, they know instinctively that a house divided cannot stand.
There is one other group that we should remember is listening to all of this -- our troops. I was in Iraq in January. One day, when I was meeting with the 1st Armored Division, a unit with a proud history, known as Old Ironsides, we were discussing troop morale, and the commanding general said it was top notch.
I turned to the division's sergeant major, the top enlisted man in the division, a big, burly 6-foot-3, 240 pound African American, and I said: "That's good, but how do you sustain that kind of morale?" With no hesitation, he narrowed his eyes, and he looked at me and said: "The morale will stay high just as long as these troops know the people back home support us."
"Just as long as the people back home support us."
What kind of message are these hearings and the outrageously political speeches on the floor of the Senate yesterday sending to the marvelous young Americans in the uniform of our country?
I say: Unite America! Before it is too late. Put aside these petty partisan differences when it comes to the protection of our people. Argue and argue and argue, debate and debate and debate over all the other things, such as jobs, education, the deficit, and the environment. But please, please do not use the lives of Americans and the security of this country as a cheap-shot political talking point."