The Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, as well as Commissioner John Lehman, were George Stephanopoulos’s guests on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, and they both spoke out strongly in favor of the upcoming miniseries “The Path to 9/11” (video link to follow).
At the beginning of this discussion, Stephanopoulos presented concerns expressed by Clinton administration officials about the docudrama, and asked Kean if the program should be aired. Kean responded:
Oh, of course, it should be aired. I mean, I'm not for censorship or not allowing people to see things. In my experience with these people who’ve been working in the film they've been responsive to criticism, mine and other people’s, and have made changes that were necessary. I haven't seen the final cut. It's a miniseries. It's not a documentary. It's not done by ABC news. It's done by ABC news entertainment, but as I've seen it, I think it'll make a contribution.
Stephanopoulos then reiterated concerns of the Clinton administration, in particular about a couple of scenes in the film, and asked, “Did you ask the filmmakers to change those scenes and did they change them?” Kean responded:
I don't know. I haven't seen the final cut. Any problems with it have been brought to their attention, and all I can say is they've been responsive in the past. I haven't seen the final product. But I think people who do see the final product, people who are watching tonight and tomorrow night are gonna see a film which really makes you understand a little better the kind of people, the kind of minds of these terrorists and the whole film leads into -- because it follows the plot for six years of the Clinton administration and six or eight months of the Bush administration. Both administrations are faulted and in the end I think you’re led to our recommendations, you’re led at the end of the film to why haven't we done more at this point to make the world safer and to make the United States safer.
As the discussion ensued, John Lehman brilliantly offered the following:
Well, I agree that people should go back to the report. It's very readable and that is factual. All of us Democrats and Republicans have endorsed that. I haven't seen the film, but I can reassure and comfort my Democratic colleagues that as a Republican having lived with the hostility of Hollywood through the last 30 years, that it's not going to have an earth-shaking impact, and I think that it certainly should go forward. It’s, I'm told equally harsh against the Bush administration, in fact, both Bush administrations and even back to Reagan for not retaliating against early strikes, so absolutely it should go forward, and if you don't like the hits to the Clinton administration, well, welcome to the club. The Republicans have lived with Michael Moore and Oliver Stone and most of Hollywood as a fact of life.
Chairman Kean was given the last word:
Well, the fascinating thing, George, is nobody's seen the final cut. Most of the people who are talking haven't seen any version whatsoever. Only in the United States and in Washington could this kind of a debate occur about things people haven’t seen. I don't know what the comments are gonna be the morning after but I think they'll be good and I think people will be glad they saw it and I think people will get something out of it and I think it's going to move our recommendations forward unless they've changed it. It finishes with our report card showing so much -- how much still has to be done by this country to make us safer.
Yet, maybe the finest moment of Sunday’s program was the following statement made by ABC’s George Will during the panel discussion:
I think docudramas are a very questionable enterprise in general because they lead at the far extreme to something like Oliver Stone's "JFK" which was simply a license to lie, to send out to the country to a vast audience a meretricious fictionalization and conspiracy paranoia that is in that man's head. On the other hand -- I'm skeptical of the whole enterprise. Now, Democrats can get as angry as they want, unless they have been silent on Michael Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11" because they have a very selective conscience about lying!
Those interested in seeing Lehman’s statements should go here. I am still working on a video of Kean and Will’s comments.