Imagine if the 9/11 Commission was limited to focus only on the events of the day of the attacks and prevented from reviewing radical Islamist terrorism. Or imagine if it was focused more broadly on all international violence. Neither scope would be appropriate. What McConnell calls “some artificial, politicized halfway point” is precisely what the 9/11 Commission examined.
In the 9/11 Commission’s much-lauded report, the commissioners explained its mandate was to look “at the facts and circumstances relating to the 9/11 terrorist attack . . . including those relating to intelligence agencies; law enforcement agencies; diplomacy; immigration, nonimmigrant visas, and border control; the flow of assets to terrorist organizations; commercial aviation; the role of congressional oversight and resource allocation; and other areas determined relevant by the Commission for its inquiry.” The scope of the new commission should align with that of the 9/11 Commission.
The problem is that the GOP has transformed into a cult of the person who instigated the attack, fed propaganda to radicalize his party and refused to denounce white supremacists. The party is thus terrified of recognizing that the problem of violent white supremacists is intrinsically linked to the disgraced former president and his accomplices.
Two issues arise as to the composition of the commission. First, can any Republican who propagated the Big Lie or objected to counting electoral votes serve on the commission? Certainly not, for that would be a conflict of interest. Second, why does any politician need to sit on the committee? Pelosi and McConnell could each appoint a national security professional who has not participated in partisan politics for a decade. Former CIA directors Michael Hayden and Leon Panetta would be ideal. Let them each pick three or four other commissioners, hire staff and get to work.
Republicans would love nothing better than to “move on,” as they insist. Their frantic effort to turn the page or at least to divert our attention goes to the nub of the political crisis we face: One party is untethered to facts, to democracy and to the American creed that defines our nation (“All men are created equal”), not race or religion.
The notion of a truly apolitical body must scare the dickens out of them, especially if it had subpoena power (with a swift enforcement mechanism that can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia) and was responsible to no one but the American people. There will be no theatrics to delay the commission’s work. There will be no stonewalling. No sleazy attorney general to pre-spin the report. And that is precisely why we need a commission with ample scope, funds and power.