Why wasn’t the empty Deutsch Bank building in New York-where two firemen perished in a fire-torn down? What does this have to do with a bridge across the Mississippi? Daniel Henninger raises and answers these questions:

“It’s about New York surely, but the inability to get this building down stands as a broader rebuke to a country that has become so comfortable with indulging its countless legal, personal, political and administrative obsessions that it cannot protect its own people by doing the obvious.

“You surely recall what the 9/11 Commission said about the problems that led to that day, and before that the Bremer commission’s report on terrorism predicting that the U.S. was at risk for precisely the same reasons–an American system engulfed in proceduralism and legalism. And loving it. That’s right, loving it. Our public officials and the attendant factions and community groups are so far gone into their never-never lands of crossing ‘t’s’ and dotting ‘i’s’ that they barely know how to bring an issue to resolution. In their world, it’s never over. Process is life.

“The road map to Saturday’s tragedy may be found on the Web site of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the page titled ‘The Deutsche Bank Building at 130 Liberty Street.’ In a chronological listing of “public documents” from September 2004 to November 2005 are 19 dates inside of which are uncountable numbers of fact sheets on air monitoring, ‘supplemental investigations’ of fireproofing, vertical shaft sampling, cell system sampling and requests for variance to the horizon. There is an Advisory Committee of four LMDC members, four politicians, 16 “community representatives” and nine federal, state and city agencies. They met a lot.

At the center of this 40-story-high tangle of fishing line one finds the hook on which the whole mess has been hanging for six years-‘contaminants of potential concern’ or COPCs. The most politically paralyzing COPC of all, needless to say, is asbestos.

“Lest a fiber of asbestos float from the building and spread cancer panic across lower Manhattan’s streets, the one-floor-at-a-time demolition required an “abatement and removal” plan whose mind-boggling technical and physical details would fill half the first section of this newspaper (‘All interior non-structural building materials will be removed under negative pressure . . .’).