On Richard Clarke
Richard Clarke blames the Bush administration for September 11, but what does he think about President Clinton?
7:00 AM, Mar 22, 2004 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
"FRANKLY, I FIND IT OUTRAGEOUS that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We'll never know."
Those are the words of Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism official in the Bush and Clinton administrations. Clarke appeared on CBS 60 Minutes last night to trash the Bush administration and its handling of the war on terror. The timing was propitious. Clarke has a book out today and he is testifying before the September 11 Commission later this week. Expect to hear a lot more about Richard Clarke and from Richard Clarke in the coming months, especially as the presidential campaign intensifies.
Clarke's testimonials are, in a word, bizarre. In his own world, Clarke was the hero who warned Bush administration officials about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda ad nauseam. The Bush administration, in Clarke's world, just didn't care. In Clarke's world, eight months of Bush administration counterterrorism policy is more important than eight years of Clinton administration counterterrorism policy.
"He's creating this new reality to cover his own legacy of failure," says one senior Bush administration official.
In fact, Bush administration officials who worked with Clarke say his warnings about bin Laden were maddeningly vague. Everyone knew bin Laden was a serious threat. Clarke's job, before he was demoted to his position as cyberterrorism czar, was to propose policies to address that threat. But his chief policy recommendation--arming the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan--was already under consideration and in any case would have done little to prevent a September 11 attack already in its final planning stages. After his demotion, Clarke constantly badgered Bush officials in order to get an audience with President Bush to discuss cyberterrorism.
CLARKE HAD FEW WORDS OF CRITICISM for President Clinton on 60 Minutes, despite having worked at the senior levels of his administration. At least he's consistent. Consider an interview with Clarke from PBS's Frontline: Clarke initially defends President Clinton, but an astute interviewer from Frontline with obvious knowledge of the chronology following the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000, presses him:
The "conveyor belt" was, of course, never destroyed. But that fact seems not to matter to Clarke, who nonetheless suggests that the Bush administration bears most of the responsibility for September 11.