The Day Tom Kean Cried


Hey, the Washington Post reports on issues that don't involve two 60-something men grunting at each other! Via Jonathan Weisman comes news that Democrats are flushing their campaign promise to "implement ALL the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission."

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.

They'd have to give up turf? Yeah, that won't happen. As Weisman reveals, consideration over the hurt feelings and wallets of people like Jack Murtha and Jane Harman are making it politically untenable for Pelosi to push for the congressional changes.

It's hard to know what side to take here. The Democrats are obviously being duplicitous and power-hungry, and hoping the 9/11 families who gave them so much juice over the last year don't mind. But the campaign pledge to implement the recommendations had really nothing to do with congressional musical chairs. It was code for "unlike these Republicans, we'll fund homeland security and make sure you're safe when you get on a plane." And you could easily argue that whether or not every passenger on an airplane gets screened will have more impact on a potential terrorist attack than whether Jack Murtha controls a $500 billion budget or a $100 billion budget. (The 41 recommendations are here.)

Recall that fateful day when Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton shambled forth with xeroxed copies of their report, and Nick Gillespie had the scoop.