A reader e-mails,
Why you haven’t commented on the upcoming testimony before the 9/11 committee or the 60 minutes spot with Richard Clarke.
After the posts wondering out loud why liberals can’t admit that Saddam being gone is a good thing, it would seem “fair and balanced” to wonder out loud why the right wing can’t admit that Bush seemingly dropped the terrorism ball that they were handed by the Clinton administration. Seems extremely hard to avoid what Richard Clarke has to say. . .
The short answer is that I blog about what interests me. Those stories, so far at least, don’t. I haven’t written anything about them for the same reason I didn’t blog about the ballyhooed Lisa Meyers piece last week about the “secret video” proving the Clinton Administration should have gotten Osama before 9/11: They don’t tell us anything we didn’t know; they’re just old stories dressed up as new ones.
The Clarke story: Did Bush Press For Iraq-9/11 Link?
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, President Bush ordered his then top anti-terrorism adviser to look for a link between Iraq and the attacks, despite being told there didn’t seem to be one.
The charge comes from the advisor, Richard Clarke, in an interview airing Sunday at 7 p.m. ET/PT on 60 Minutes.
The administration maintains that it cannot find any evidence that the conversation about an Iraq-9/11 tie-in ever took place.
Clarke also tells CBS News Correspondent Lesley Stahl that White House officials were tepid in their response when he urged them months before Sept. 11 to meet to discuss what he saw as a severe threat from al Qaeda.
“Frankly,” he said, “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.”
Clarke says that as early as the day after the attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was pushing for retaliatory strikes on Iraq, even though al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan.
His allegations are also made in a book being published Monday, “Against All Enemies.”
So, what do we learn from this story?
1. The Bush team considered Saddam Public Enemy#1.
2. Clark claims he knew all along that al Qaeda was the great threat but no one listened to him. (Of course, he held the same post under the Clinton Administration, and no one there listened to him, either.)
3. Clark is trying to sell a book about this.
Of the three, the third is the only one that’s news to me. The Bush team was talking about Saddam as a menace during the 2000 campaign. It’s not surprising that he was a suspect, given that the U.S. had been in a state of war with him for a decade by that point.
And, let’s say that Clark was a super-duper genius who figured out just how dangerous al Qaeda was before everyone else did. I mean, there were certainly clues: the U.S.S. Cole, Khobar Towers, the bombings of American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Even the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. So what? Even if he’d predicted that al Qaeda operatives were planning to hijack airliners and blow up high value domestic targets, what is it that we were supposed to do about it? Just imagine the public reaction to Bush saying we had to go to war to topple the Taliban regime and that–oh, by the way–we’re now going to radically ramp up security procedures for getting onto airplanes. How well would that have gone over on September 10th? Clinton was looking for any excuse he could to divert attention from his impeachment trial and couldn’t muster anything more than a pathetic missile strike after the embassy bombings. Does anyone honestly think Bush could have done any more than that taking office months after the Cole bombing?
Update: A former graduate school colleague notes that,
[T]he missile strikes in response to the embassy bombings came in August 1998. Clinton wasn’t impeached until December 1998 and his Senate trial wasn’t until February 1999. The Starr report, on which the impeachment charges were based, didn’t come out until September 1998. You could, if you wanted, make the argument that the embassy bombings constituted a “wag the dog” scenario to divert attention from Clinton’s Grand Jury testimony in which he admitted to the affair with Monica Lewinsky.
I stand corrected. In fact, it was the build-up to the Kosovo campaign that came during the impeachment trial. It’s hard to keep the chronology of all the Clinton scandals and military campaigns straight!
Update: Wizbang guest blogger Paul is amused that I’ve been criticized for not responding to an interview that hasn’t yet aired. Steven Taylor agrees that there’s not much new here and even provides quotes from a couple years ago to back it up.
Meanwhile Brad DeLong wants to impeach both President Bush and Vice President Cheney.