TCS Daily

In Terror Aftermath, Put Hubris Aside And Focus On The Obvious

By Hugh Hewitt - September 19, 2001 12:00 AM

Too many people are trying to hit large notes this week and last, advising the president on how to act when the nation is under attack, designing war strategies for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and drafting diplomatic initiatives for Secretary of State Colin Powell. It is one thing to debate tax policy with Chris Matthews or Gary Condit with Geraldo, but too many media folks have been embarrassing themselves not to be a warning to all columnists to check their hubris at the door. I did tours in the Office of the Attorney General and the White House Counsel's Office, and I know what I don't know, and I know there are many things I don't know that I don't know. So I will stick to some very obvious points that seem, to me, to bear mentioning or perhaps repeating.

First, before the attack on the nation, I had penned a column for a Southern California magazine on the merits of the Los Angeles and Orange Counties as the host for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. I had intended to write on the same theme for this column. There were good reasons to prefer LA and environs to other communities bidding to host the games: Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Now it seems obvious to me that all of these cities ought to withdraw in favor of New York, a rallying to the community most terribly wounded. Washington was struck, and California was home to many victims, but "ground zero" is in Manhattan and it seems obvious to me that all of the country should rally to that city's side. An Olympics in New York in a decade could celebrate the recovery, of course, but it would also be civilization's vast rebuke to barbarism.

Another obvious thought concerns Mayor Rudy Giuliani. His term will end soon, and as a government of laws and not of men, we should not hear serious talk about changing the rules of mayoral contests to keep him in the job even though he has been magnificent. The talk of various czardoms is also off the mark, as interagency efforts inevitably bog down. It seems obvious that Central Intelligence Agency Director George J. Tenet must be replaced because the failure to detect the attack on Tuesday, while not his personal failure must be assessed against the CIA and the FBI. The bureau's excellent men and women have a new leader. The agency's excellent men and women would benefit from a new leader as well. Who better than Rudy? A former U.S. Attorney for New York's Southern District and a former Associate Attorney General at main Justice, Giuliani has the credentials and, crucially, would enjoy the confidence of the public. That is needed right now. The confirmation process could conclude just as his service as mayor concludes his service.

The subject of confirmations is my next obvious thing. Once the attack on America began, it took three days for the Senate to confirm John Negroponte as Ambassador to the United Nations. But many other crucial vacancies remain. The nation's second highest court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has two vacancies. A former Deputy Solicitor General of the United States and a superbly qualified professional from private practice who is also a Latino were nominated with President Bush's first group of nominees in early May. Another former Deputy Solicitor General, Michael McConnell, was nominated at the same time for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. There are many others languishing in the waiting rooms of Sen. Patrick Leahy's Judiciary Committee. The thousands of lawsuits flowing from these attacks, the investigations, the new legislation on national security -- all of these things demand a fully staffed judiciary. Sen. Leahy needs to put politics aside and act in the best interests of the country and get these nominees to the floor for a vote.

Next, it is possible that we will go to war and no one in this country will know. The area said to be home to many of the terrorists is far from any bureau of CNN or any other Western media outlet. The Pentagon is committed to an unprecedented secrecy. It is obvious that some in the media will soon complain that the clamps are tight, and just as obvious that those complaints should be ignored. This will be a conflict, as the president and the secretary of Defense have said, carried on in the shadows. The media had better get used to it because the public will support whatever works, whether or not it's good for ratings.

Finally, have you noticed any worries over the vice president's heart? I haven't. The President has been magnificent, as has Mr. Cheney. When the spinners come to question his renomination in 2004, we should have tape of the vice president's interview this past Sunday when he spoke of the need to assure succession and on crisis management. President Bush made a controversial choice a year and a few months ago when he selected Cheney for the ticket. How obvious it is now that in the business of selecting vice presidents we ought always to keep Sept. 11 in mind in the future.

Hugh Hewitt is an author and television and radio commentator. His radio program is syndicated by the Salem Radio Network ( He can be reached at

TCS Daily Archives