Another Pre-election Myth Debunked: Democrats Support 9-11 Commission Suggestions

With each passing day, the media are debunking all the myths they helped foster about what the Democrats would do if they regained control of Congress. This one is beautiful, for it has to do with issues of national security, which was considered very important by voters just three weeks ago. As reported by the Washington Post’s Jonathan Weisman, but buried on page A7 (grateful hat tip to NB member “dscott,” emphasis mine throughout):

It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. Instead, Democratic leaders may create a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.

Isn’t that wonderful? Sound like a classic bait and switch? Regardless, the piece continued:

Because plans for implementing the commission's recommendations are still fluid, Democratic officials would not speak for the record. But aides on the House and Senate appropriations, armed services and intelligence committees confirmed this week that a reorganization of Congress would not be part of the package of homeland-security changes up for passage in the "first 100 hours" of the Democratic Congress.


It may seem like a minor matter, but members of the commission say Congress's failure to change itself is anything but inconsequential. In 2004, the commission urged Congress to grant the House and Senate intelligence committees the power not only to oversee the nation's intelligence agencies but also to fund them and shape intelligence policy. The intelligence committees' gains would come at the expense of the armed services committees and the appropriations panels' defense subcommittees. Powerful lawmakers on those panels would have to give up prized legislative turf.

But the commission was unequivocal about the need.

"Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important," the panel wrote. "So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need."

Now Democrats are balking, just as Republicans did before them.

And continued:

The decision will almost certainly anger commission members, as well as families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, many of whom have pressed hard for implementation of the recommendations.

"The Democrats pledged to implement all the remaining 9/11 reforms, not some of them," said former representative Timothy J. Roemer (D-Ind.), who served on the commission.

Carie Lemack, whose mother was in one of the jets that hit the World Trade Center, echoed that sentiment: "It wasn't a Chinese takeout menu, the 41 recommendations. You have to do all of them."

So, why are they backing away from this? Could it be partisan politics? Let’s see what Weisman thought:

Democratic leadership dust-ups this month severely limited the ability of House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) to implement the commission's recommendations, according to Democratic aides.

Pelosi strongly backed Murtha for House majority leader, only to see him soundly defeated by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.). That chain of events made it difficult for her to ask Murtha, a longtime ally, to relinquish control of the intelligence budget from his consolation prize, the chairmanship of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, according to Democratic sources.

Fabulous. So, according to Weisman, the Democrats aren’t going to follow through with this campaign pledge because the incoming Speaker of the House doesn’t want to ask Murtha to give up control of some of the defense purse strings. Isn’t that great? But, that’s not all:

Likewise, a controversy over the choice of a new chairman of the House intelligence committee proved to be a factor in the decision. The Sept. 11 commission urged Congress to do away with traditional term limits on the intelligence committees to preserve continuity and expertise, a recommendation the House implemented in 2003. But in her search for a reason to drop the committee's most senior Democrat, Jane Harman (Calif.), from the panel, Pelosi fell back on the tradition of term limits. She has decided to pass over the intelligence committee's second-ranking Democrat, Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.), as well.

Isn’t that special? So, in order to pass over the extremely worthy Jane Harman for exclusively personal reasons, Pelosi has to ignore one of the requests of the Commission concerning term limits on intelligence committees. How wonderful.

Once again, wouldn’t it have been ideal and responsible of the media to be cynical of all these Democrat campaign promises that are now going by the wayside rather than just rubber-stamping them? How much different might the results of the elections have been if the press would have investigated and reported the veracity and possibility of all these pledges as opposed to advertising them? Would that have been asking too much?

What a disgrace.

9/11 Washington Post
Noel Sheppard's picture