From the New York Times:
President Bush said on Sunday that the intelligence briefing he received on Al Qaeda one month before the Sept. 11 strike contained no specific “indication of a terrorist attack” on American soil. He also defended the adequacy of his response to the warnings that terrorists in the United States might be planning hijackings.
Mr. Bush, in his first public remarks since the release of his top-secret briefing Saturday evening, played down the urgency of the information he was given at his ranch 36 days before terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. In doing so, Mr. Bush echoed the testimony last week by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, before the commission investigating the attacks, which had pushed for the release of the briefing.
“I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America — at a time and a place, an attack,” Mr. Bush said after attending Easter services in Fort Hood, Tex. “Of course we knew that America was hated by Osama bin Laden. That was obvious. The question was, who was going to attack us, when and where, and with what.”
Still, Mr. Bush for the first time suggested that others in his administration may not have done enough to head off the attacks. “That’s what the 9/11 commission should look into, and I hope it does,” he said.
Samuel Popkin, a professor of political science at the University of California in San Diego, said that Mr. Bush’s first response on the subject would not do much to staunch what he, too, described as a significant threat to his re-election.
“Truman said, `The buck stops here,’ ” Mr. Popkin said. “Bush is saying, `The buck never got to me.’ “
This, it seems to me, is the sort of character issue that, properly exploited, could swing the election.
Instead of standing up, Bush is pointing the finger at everyone but himself. And after the campaign his buddies have been waging to discredit the 9-11 Commission, it’s a little much for him to suggest that he needs the Commission to tell him which of his subordinates dropped the ball.