We've all had about enough of the 9/11 Commission by now. It didn't take long for the hearings to descend into transparent partisanship, but then what could we expect when the commission is comprised of career politicos, several of them auditioning for their next Washington gig? It's all come down to performance and TV face time. Sunday's New York Times confirms this suspicion, devoting a
to an analysis of the hearings' “Winners and Losers” (not surprisingly, John Ashcroft was scored a loser and Jamie Gorelick a winner).
p>It all could have been so different if the commission's creators had been capable of thinking beyond the Washington beltway for inspiration. America is home to more creative and successful people, in more areas of endeavor, than any country in the world. If the events of 9/11 really did change our society and the course of our history, surely the commission appointed to investigate it should be drawn from a broad range of American life. Instead, we mostly got lawyers.
p>So after suffering through another appearance from Richard Ben-Veniste on the evening news shows, I decided to name my own commission. Borrowing from Plato's organization of his ideal Republic, I focused on the areas of commerce, the military and philosophy.
p>Not all of my picks fall neatly into these categories. But I looked for people who, though they may have identifiable political leanings one way or another, have not spent most of their lives employed within a political party, and who are happy in their day jobs. An appointment to the commission, in other words, would be more of an interruption for them than an adventure.
p>I confined my list to living Americans, resisting the temptation to name a heavenly tribunal. (Imagine how pleasing it would be, for example, to watch John Adams wave the 1995 Justice Department memo at witness Jamie Gorelick and tell her, “Facts are stubborn things.”)
p>My fellow Americans, here is a 9/11 Commission That Might Have Been:
1) James Webb, author, Marine, attorney.
A decorated Marine veteran in Vietnam, Webb wrote
Fields of Fire
, regarded by many as the best of all Vietnam novels. The book is a profound corrective to the cultural myths of the evil and deranged American soldier. Its unforgettable conclusion provides the most devastating critique of the antiwar movement one will ever need to read. Webb's Marine loyalties have never faded; when he served briefly as Navy Secretary under President Reagan, he appointed Al Gray as Marine Corps Commandant, a crucial event in the resurgence of the Corps after the difficulties of the post-Vietnam era. He is an