Friday, July 23, 2004

Who will read the report?
The 9/11 report is out. Reporters, columnists, bloggers, and political junkies are all buying and downloading their copies to read and study. Many sat up last night and read the whole thing in one over-caffeinated sitting (I was not one of them). These are people who want to understand the issues and be able to discuss them intelligently. Unfortunately, understand and discuss is the extent of our influence.

What about the people who can actually do something about the issues? We know George Bush will not read the full report. But does he have contact with anyone who will themselves read the full report? Will any of the relevant cabinet people read the full document? We know reading reports isn't Condi's strong suit. What about Rummy, Cheney, Ashcroft, Powell, or Ridge? Rove? Probably not. Will any of their top advisors and assistants read the complete report? Probably not.

So who will take the responsibility of sitting down and reading every word of the report? If anyone at all in the executive branch does, it will be low level staffers. They will write summaries for the advisors to brief the cabinet members who will talk to the president. We can assume the same process holds for most members of congress, though with a layer or two less.

To put this another way: The president will not read the report. The president does not regularly talk to anyone who will read the report. The president does not regularly talk to anyone who regularly talks to anyone who will read the report. The leaders, whom we have entrusted with the task of remedying the flaws described in the report, will act on second, third, even fourth-hand knowledge of the contents of the report. The closest anyone in a decision-making position will ever come to the full report will most likely be reading newspaper accounts and editorials by journalists who really did read (or at least skim) the whole thing.

This is the nature of governmental (and corporate) decision making. Usually it’s just annoying. Sometimes it’s plain scary.

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