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Thursday, Jun 06, 2002

back to the beat

"Bush's premise is mistaken. Clinton didn't understand the meaning of "is"; Bush doesn't understand the meaning of "could." Bush talks about stopping terrorism as though it's a matter of goodwill: He's a decent person, so if he fails to stop an attack, the reason must be that he couldn't have done so. But "could" doesn't imply "would." The latter conveys certainty; the former conveys possibility. In fighting terrorism, possibility, not certainty, should be the operative principle. It suits the complex nature of investigation, gives agents practical guidance, and is a standard to which politicians and bureaucrats can reasonably be held. The question to ask about each step not taken in the months leading up to Sept. 11 is not whether it would have prevented the attacks but whether it would have kept alive a chain of investigation making that outcome possible."