TELLING THE TRUTH AS AN INNOVATIVE POLITICAL STRATEGY….I’m always afraid that if I suggest that politicians should just tell the truth it tags me as terminally naive, but I really wonder why the Bush administration hasn’t done exactly that in the case of Dick Clarke. Take a look at Clarke’s two major charges:

  1. The Bushies didn’t take terrorism seriously enough when they first took office.

  2. After 9/11, they were too obsessed with Iraq, which has been a distraction from the war on terror.

Why the furious barrage of personal smears and frenzied counterattacks? Why not just tell the truth?

  1. In retrospect, of course we wish we had paid more attention to terrorism. Everybody in the U.S. government does. After all, 3000 people died. It was a terrible misjudgment and a wakeup call for all of us. (I’m sure they could figure out a better way to say it, but you get the idea.)

  2. Yes, we did focus on Iraq, and for good reasons. (Proceed to give reasons, which hopefully they can do by now without a second thought.)

Would anyone have held it against them if they admitted that they, like everyone else, underestimated terrorism prior to 9/11? I don’t think so. And the Iraq war as a response to terrorism is a longstanding policy dispute. Surely they could just acknowledge it and then lay out the usual arguments.

The Bush administration has always had only one gear, full speed ahead with all guns blazing, but this is a case where that’s probably hurt them. I suspect that if they had taken a different approach they could have defused Clarke’s allegations quickly and the whole thing would have died down by now. Somehow, though, I doubt they’ve learned any lessons from this.