I've never really understood why Andy Warhol was so important, but he may have been on to something when he said that, in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. And what I take from that is the principle that an excess of distinction inevitably leads to an indistinguishable mass. That is to say, if everyone is famous then no one is famous. Same goes for things like beauty and wealth: if everyone were equally beautiful (a dream of the national-socialists, or Nazis) or equally wealthy (a dream of the international-socialists, or the Democratic Party), then everyone would be reduced to a baseline of zero. The inherent quality of the distinction would be incoherent in itself.
In another context, consider the area of threat assessments and intelligence warnings. The various intelligence-gathering organs of our government and military generate these things around the clock, based on countless bits of information gleaned from countless different sources. Any one of these reports might be a dead-on prediction of some event yet to unfold. But how do you know which one that will be? The hardest job an administrator has, as Lee Hamilton suggested yesterday before the Kean Commission, is to know in what order of importance these assessments should be handled. They can't all be equally important, can they? You could, as has famous TV personality Richard Clarke, assert that any one of these assessments is "urgent" (rather than merely "important"), but that's in the way of semantics, really. You know: if everything were urgent, then maybe everything simply becomes important, which, Clarke would have us believe, is a euphemism for unimportant.
So what's the chief to do? Since it's not feasible or even possible to investigate every single scenario and know in advance the essential details of each, the person running the show must decide upon an agenda. Maybe this is arbitrary, but it is a necessity. The President and his advisers must focus on a given set of priorities because it is a first step. They must put certain things before others, for if they didn't, no plan would ever be executed.
For example, in the first months of 2001 (and surely before), the President was big on missile defense systems. He was thinking about China's and North Korea's ability to mess with us and our friends in South Korea and Taiwan. Almost sounds quaint now, doesn't it? Practically irrelevant. But not then (and, I would guess, it will lose its quaintness again someday). For, in fact, both China and North Korea were flexing their muscles and taking the new President's measure. Don't you remember Kim's blustering? Remember the big stand-off when the Chinese took down one of our spy planes? Big stuff then, but not so much now.
None of this, of course, means that the Bush Administration was ignorant of the threat of al-Qaeda. They knew that Osama was slowly pecking away at us and had been for years. But in the transition between Clinton and Bush, just how "urgently" was the threat communicated? And, even more "importantly," what had the Clinton White House done about the many terrorist attacks against us and our friends? Jack shit, basically. Some ill-timed and ill-directed cruise missiles is all. And Clinton had had years to get it all together when Bush had only about seven months. The inability or unwillingness of Democratic partisans to see the depth of their hypocrisy in condemning the one man while praising the other is all the reason I need to disrespect them as an organization. They are a disgrace to logic and fairness. And this is beyond dispute.
So, in the end, people need to remember that there are far more ways to screw something up than to get it right. Those who provide for our national security, as Dr. Rice said yesterday, have to be right all the time when a terrorist only has to be "right" once. The standard and the stakes are different. And they are orders of magnitude stricter and higher than anything us average joes will ever know.
You did a beautiful job yesterday, Dr. Rice. I am proud of you and, no matter what, History will exonerate you and this Administration for having the courage to do what must be done.