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Defending the commission’s work from partisan attacks

I argued last week that the politics should be taken out of the 9/11 hearings. Never did I think I would be defending the commission before its report is even out.

I said repeatedly that in an effort to take the politics out of 9/11, I would support the commission’s unanimous report no matter what it says, no matter who takes the heat (read that Closing Argument here). After all, the Republicans appointed five, the Democrats appointed five, and those 10 will have had access to thousands of interviews and highly classified material that the rest of us don’t.

I figured the hard-core partisans of one party or another, if not both, would complain about the commission’s report, but I didn’t expect it would start so soon. I didn’t know which side it would come from, but we have learned it is now coming from a few on the right. “The Wall Street Journal” has maligned the motives of the commission; today’s “New York Post” headline: “Partisan Politics Over Truth, National Disgrace.” A handful of prominent conservative Web sites have joined in, and the Fox News channel has done segments following up on the allegations from those publications and sites.

They all site Richard Ben-Veniste, the Democrat who’s been toughest on members of the Bush administration. But let’s assume for a minute he is partisan. Let’s assume he’s been unfair. That says nothing about the findings of the 10-person commission. So far this bipartisan commission has been unanimous in all of its findings and requests. And its final report is expected to be as well. If it’s not, then I would expect the floodgates of criticism to open. But until then, if they want to criticize individual commissioners, questions or style, go ahead, say it.

But don’t attack the entire commission whose Republicans are and will be just as influential as the Democrats if they’re unanimous. Is the allegation that the Republicans on the commission are suddenly shifting party allegiance and playing politics as well? This commission will undoubtedly make some findings that will make some politicians or their advisers very unhappy. But sometimes the truth hurts, and those of us who just want the truth and not the political mudslinging will defend this commission.