By Dan Froomkin
Monday, February 4, 2008; 1:41 PM
Less than four months before the 2004 election, it looked like President Bush might face a perilous accountability moment.
An independent, bipartisan commission was set to report on the "circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks."
The White House had a lot to lose from an unfettered, authoritative examination of those issues. The last thing Bush needed during a hotly contested reelection campaign was a reminder of his inattention to the threat of terrorism before 9/11, or of his initial paralysis when he heard the news, or of his misbegotten attempts to pin the blame on Iraq.
Bush originally fought the establishment of such a commission. Even after he bowed to congressional pressure, he still only went along grudgingly. For instance, he famously refused to face the panel alone or in public, insisting instead on a private, unrecorded interview with Vice President Cheney at his side.
But when the report finally came out, it was clear Bush had dodged another bullet. The commission spread the blame for 9/11 far and wide and emphasized needed structural changes over accountability.
Now, it seems the White House may not have needed to be too apprehensive about the commission's report. It had an inside man. And he was one of the guys in charge.
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