Jewish World Review March 31, 2004 / 9 Nissan, 5764
It's Dick Clarke's American grandstand
We now know how Campaign 2004 will unfold: A Democrat will accuse
President Bush of having started the Chicago fire, or poisoning Halloween
candy or whatever. The news media will trumpet the charges, no matter how
preposterous. When Bush aides deny the charges, and provide evidence
refuting them, journalists will accuse Bush of making "personal attacks."
Exhibit A for this pattern is the sordid saga of
Richard Clarke, arguably the least credible
whistleblower in American history. The
counterterrorism chief in the Clinton
administration who was held over by Bush
charged in testimony before the 9/11 commission
that Bush wasn't much concerned about waging
war on terror before Sept. 11, and then tried to
bully Clarke into falsely fingering Iraq for the attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon.
Clarke's testimony is refuted not only by every other national security official
who was around Bush during the period in question, but by Clarke himself, in a
background briefing he gave reporters on Aug. 4, 2002; in interviews he gave to
author Richard Miniter, PBS and The New Yorker magazine; in an e-mail he
sent to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Sept. 15, 2001, and even
by what he wrote in his own book.
In his August 2002 briefing, Clarke told reporters (1) that the Clinton
administration had no overall plan on al-Qaida to pass on to the Bush
administration; (2) that just days after his inauguration, Bush said he wanted a
new, more comprehensive anti-terror strategy; (3) that Bush ordered
implementation of anti-terror measures that had been kicking around since 1998,
and (4) that before Sept. 11, Bush had increased fivefold the funding for CIA
covert action programs against al-Qaida.
In the Sept. 15, 2001, memo, Clarke reminded Rice that in July, the White House ordered a message (written by Clarke) sent to domestic agencies warning them to prepare for the possibility of a "spectacular al-Qaida attack." He listed a number of meetings in June and July in which the FBI, Secret Service, Customs, etc. were urged to take special measures to increase security.
It's reasonable enough to argue that Bush could have done more to guard
against terror, though it isn't clear what. What is incredible is to argue as
Clarke did before the 9/11 commission that President Clinton was more
concerned about al-Qaida than Bush was.
Clarke told the commission that Clinton "had no higher priority" than terrorism.
But not even Clarke believes this. In his book, Clarke said that trying to obtain a
Middle East peace agreement was more important to Clinton than retaliating for
the attack on the USS Cole.
Commissioner James Thompson asked Clarke which was true: What he said in
the August 2002 briefing, or what he said in his book. "Both," Clarke replied.
But it's not possible to reconcile the two. It's difficult even to reconcile what
Clarke said in his book with the embellishments he's made in television
interviews, said Time magazine's Romesh Ratnesar.
Clarke has credibility problems which make those of Clinton and Nixon seem
mild by comparison. But it's hard to find a hint of this in the "mainstream"
media. In a lengthy "analysis" piece ("Insider Clarke Weathers his Critics"),
Mark Matthews and Tom Bowman of the Baltimore Sun somehow fail to
mention at all that what Clarke is saying now contradicts what he said before.
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post ("Clarke Stays Cool as Partisanship
Heats Up") does mention the August 2002 interview, but only to criticize the
White House for permitting Fox News to make public a transcript of it.
The news media sometimes go to ludicrous lengths to blame Bush for the sins
of his predecessor. A story on the MSNBC Web site March 24 took Bush to
task for not having acted against al-Qaida in 1998, when Bush was governor of
Texas. In a story that same day, the New York Daily News moved the attack
on the USS Cole to "early 2001," during the Bush presidency, when in fact it
happened on Oct. 12, 2000.
Americans already have plenty of reasons to distrust the "news" they are being given. They'll have plenty more before November.
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