Why did the White House trot John Ashcroft out before the nation yesterday to warn us about an attack that may occur at some point in the future somewhere in America? Not, I think, because they want to scare people into supporting President Bush. Rather, because of the 9/11 Commission. The message of the public hearings was that you’ll get smacked around after the fact if you don’t let people know before the fact that you’re on the terrorism beat. Somebody wrote a PDB with a title like “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within the United States” or something, and the administration reacted by sending John Ashcroft to let us know that something might happen. Not helpful, but not surprising, either.