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Thursday, March 25, 2004
Clarke Round-Up

By Steven Taylor @ 8:59 am

Glenn Reynolds has an excellent summation of the Clarke situation, specifically as to his credibility, which is well encapsulated by this:

The other possibility is that Clarke held an important national security job for years while being dumb as a post, so dumb that he would write a book making explosive accusations against the White House while knowing - or forgetting? - that all sorts of contradictory evidence was on the record and bound to come out. Otherwise, wouldn’t he at least have tried to explain this stuff up front?

As I’ve said before, I think there’s a lot to complain about regarding pre-9/11 antiterror policy, by both Clinton and Bush. (Read this piece by Gerald Posner). And a lot of people probably should have been fired. But Clarke is now saying that his real problem is with the invasion of Iraq, even as he focuses on pre-9/11 events.

A useful critique would be nice, but Clarke seems to be producing incoherent grandstanding.

I still maintain that the main issue here is media coverage of the event, and there can be no doubt that they have made the 911 hearings seem as if they were created just so that Richard Clarke could tell us how the Bush administration fouled up.

Yet, given the glaring inconsistencies in his own record, one wonders why the media haven’t made that part of the story.

As Chris Lawrence rightly notes

the general reaction to today’s Richard Clarke testimony can be summed up as something of a redux of the David Kay testimony a few months back: everyone was able to take away something to reinforce their preexisting views, and a few blowhard politicos got to spend a lot of time listening to themselves talk.

although I will say that Kay was far easier to take seriously than Clarke. And I would also add that if Chris is correct, then the mainstream media reaction is telling.

And again, it is difficult to disaggregate Clarke from the coverage of Clarke. For while the press yesterday kept noting how Clarke said:

Under questioning, Clarke said the Clinton administration had “no higher priority” than combatting terrorists while the Bush administration made it “an important issue but not an urgent issue” in the months before Sept. 11, 2001.

they did not at all question the statement. Nor did they play Powell, Albright, Tenet , et al. clips over and over as they did Clarke’s. Why? Likely because they all largely agreed that mistakes were made, but they didn’t finger one administration over another.

Yet, as Dean Esmay points out:

I noticed this AP [same as the one noted above-,Ed.] story this morning. The first paragraph:
For a dozen years, he worked quietly in the shadows of the White House. But Richard Clarke stole the spotlight at an extraordinary series of hearings into the Sept. 11 attacks, claiming President Bush hadn’t done enough to protect the country from terrorists.
Then, almost two dozen paragraphs appear after that, all talking about how people were congratulating and high-fiving Clarke for his bravery, and talking about how Republicans seemed to be upset and questioning his objectivity while Democrats praised him.

Then, the very last two lines, buried at the very bottom of the story where most people will never read to the end of

Former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton asked Clarke if there was “the remotest chance” that the attacks could have been prevented if the Bush administration had adopted his aggressive counterterrorism recommendations upon taking office in January 2001.

“No,” Clarke said.

“No,” Clarke said.

That’s the very last line of the story. “No,” Clarke said.

However, is that the way the press is covering the story?

The idea that the Clinton administration had terrorism as their top priority doesn’t track very well. For one thing, there seemed to be precious little response to terrorism under the Clinton administration, and that which existed was more along the lines of law enforcement. Further, the Shays letter clearly demonstrates that Clarke wasn’t exaclty Mr. Fixit on this topic, despite the fact that it was his job.

Not to mention the fact that Clarke’s own words from 2002 contradict some of his testimony, including the quote above about the Clinton administration:

QUESTION: What is your response to the suggestion in the [Aug. 12, 2002] Time [magazine] article that the Bush administration was unwilling to take on board the suggestions made in the Clinton administration because of animus against the — general animus against the foreign policy?

CLARKE: I think if there was a general animus that clouded their vision, they might not have kept the same guy dealing with terrorism issue. This is the one issue where the National Security Council leadership decided continuity was important and kept the same guy around, the same team in place. That doesn’t sound like animus against uh the previous team to me.

JIM ANGLE: You’re saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that’s correct.


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  1. You can think of it this way, too: assuming the Clinton Administration DID place a high priority on fighting terrorism, then their way of fighting it was woefully inadequate.

    Comment by mark — Thursday, March 25, 2004 @ 9:18 am

  2. Extremely true.

    Comment by Steven — Thursday, March 25, 2004 @ 9:24 am

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