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In the Crossfire

Political hay or important questions?

(CNN) -- President Bush struck back at critics Friday and insisted he had no indication that terrorists were planning to intentionally crash hijacked planes into U.S. targets. Are Democrats politicizing the situation or just asking for a full airing of the facts? Dee Dee Myers, former press secretary to President Clinton, and "Crossfire" host Robert Novak debate these issues.

NOVAK: Dee Dee, before the Democrats get too overexcited about how they're really going to make a lot of gains on this little story, whatever it is, I'd like to read you a poll. This is not a poll showing how much support the president has, because he has a lot of support, or the fact that they don't think he misled America. This is a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. Should there be a congressional investigation into when the administration released information on 9/11 warnings? Yes, 43 percent; no, 55 percent. Why that's so significant is that everybody in this town inside the Beltway thinks yes, let's have a congressional investigation. You don't even have a majority in the country for a congressional investigation.

MYERS: Well, first of all, Bob, it's early. This was the first day, this was taken yesterday, which is the first day that the American public has been exposed to this issue. As you know, as these things gain currency -- as people learn more about them, opinions change. So I think we ought to not let snapshot polls on Day One of this drive long-term decisions that are important to the American public -- like getting to the bottom of who knew what, when, and how we can make sure this doesn't happen in our country again. I think that's the most important thing.

I think the public wants to know. And what we've seen in sort of these same polls is that there's a thirst for information. What happened? And what can we do better next time to prevent it from happening again? Those are reasonable questions. And people seen as getting in the way to find answers to those are not going to fare well in the long run.

NOVAK: Dee Dee, let's be honest about this. This isn't a question of trying to find out how it happened.

MYERS: Of course it is.

NOVAK: I mean, I can tell you right now, I've been working at it as a reporter. It was an analytical failure by the FBI. It never -- this information never got below the middle level of the FBI. We know this problem, Senator Shelby said.

MYERS: Right.

NOVAK: What you're interested in, and what your people are interested in...

MYERS: Tell me Bob, what am I interested in?

NOVAK: And tell me if I'm wrong. You're interesting in cutting down George W. Bush, who has these high ratings, and having some effect on the 2002 election.

MYERS: No, I think what I'm actually interested in, and what my Democratic friends that I've been talking to, and even my Republican friends that I've been talking to today, are interested in, is understanding how this happened, who knew what when, why this information didn't get shared? Many of the same things you claim to be interested in.

What the White House does in these situations, though, is they say "Oh, you can't ask these questions. If you ask these questions, you're unpatriotic." And they try to push back the questioners. This has worked really well on domestic issues up to this point. It is not going to work on this. The American public wants and deserves answers to this. What the administration should be doing is saying you're right, these are good questions, let's get to the bottom of them. They should get out in front of this parade.




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