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A question we'd like answered

Local editorials

Not whether 9/11 could have been prevented, but how we responded

Before anyone gets too worked up about President Bush's about-face in allowing National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify before the Sept. 11 commission, let's be clear: This is not a defeat for Bush, although it may be a victory for the country.

The White House had steadfastly refused to allow Rice to testify in public and under oath, saying that to do so would violate the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. Rice already met with the commission in private, but not under oath.

Bush was responding to mounting political pressure in an election year, and a slide in public opinion regarding his handling of the war on terrorism. He got the concessions he wanted from the commission ' that it would not seek to question any other White House officials and that Rice's testimony would not be taken as a precedent for public testimony in the future.

It's not surprising that Bush capitulated, and in the long run it will help him more than hurt him. Nothing fosters the public perception that you have something to hide better than refusing to talk.

More significant in our view than Rice testifying is the agreement that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will privately answer questions before the entire committee, and without a time limit. The White House had previously insisted on a one-hour limit, and had proposed a meeting with only commission chairman and vice-chairman.

What will come out of all this testifying and question-answering remains to be seen. Here's what we'd like to see: less focus on whether the attacks could have been prevented, and more on the administration's response to those attacks.

— The idea that the Bush administration could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks is far-fetched at best. Given the length of time the Sept. 11 terrorists had been in the U.S. preparing to strike, even killing Osama bin Laden would likely have been futile.

The bigger question is whether the administration was so fixated on Iraq that it used the Sept. 11 attacks as an excuse to launch a war against a country that had no connection to 9/11 or to al-Qaida.

Bush is basing his re-election campaign largely on his leadership in combatting terrorism since 9/11. Whether invading Iraq was a necessary part of that fight is a question he must answer convincingly if he wants American voters to give him a second term.

Public music is best

If schools discontinue music, as they are now, it's going to leave a big void for kids.

So says Larry Darnell who, along with Ross Welcome of Larry's Music, is offering private band lessons to local kids who are home-schoolers or who attend schools in districts that have discontinued music programs. He will get no argument from us.

Music instruction is vital to a well-rounded education. Study after study has shown that children who learn music perform better in all academic subjects.

Darnell and Welcome deserve credit for picking up the slack in music programs that are running out of funding, but it's not the best solution. Not all parents can afford private music instruction, or arrange to get their children to practice sessions. It's unlikely that private music academies can ever serve as many students as public-school music programs.

The answer is to restore those programs as quickly as possible. That, of course, will only happen when our public schools have a stable source of funding.