In his meltdown after being asked by Chris Wallace if he had done enough to get Osama bin Laden, President Clinton implored us, time, and time, and time, and time again, that if we think he didn't do enough to get bin Laden, all we have to do is read Richard Clarke's book - Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.
Is placing his fate in the hands of Richard Clarke the best defense that this former leader of the free world can come up with? As soon as the Former president invoked the name of Clarke my antennae went up.
I started scratching the old memory pool. I remembered Charles Krauthammer's 2004 "Sept. 11, Lies and 'Mistakes'
Krauthammer took Clarke to task for laying blame for the 9/11 attacks on the Bush administration:
The 1990s were al Qaeda's springtime: Blissfully unmolested in Afghanistan, it trained, indoctrinated, armed and, most fatally, planned. For the United States, this was a catastrophic lapse, and in a March 2002 interview on PBS's "Frontline," Clarke admitted as much: "I believe that, had we destroyed the terrorist camps in Afghanistan earlier, that the conveyor belt that was producing terrorists, sending them out around the world would have been destroyed." Instead, "now we have to hunt [them] down country by country."
What should we have done during those lost years? Clarke answered: "Blow up the camps and take out their sanctuary. Eliminate their safe haven, eliminate their infrastructure. . . . That's . . . the one thing in retrospect I wish had happened."
It did not. And who was president? Bill Clinton. Who was the Clinton administration's top counterterrorism official? Clarke. He now says that no one followed his advice. Why did he not speak out then? And if the issue was as critical to the nation as he now tells us, why didn't he resign in protest?
[. . .]
The "Frontline" interviewer asked Clarke whether failing to blow up the camps and take out the Afghan sanctuary was a "pretty basic mistake."
Clarke's answer is unbelievable: "Well, I'm not prepared to call it a mistake. It was a judgment made by people who had to take into account a lot of other issues. . . . There was the Middle East peace process going on. There was the war in Yugoslavia going on. People above my rank had to judge what could be done in the counterterrorism world at a time when they were also pursuing other national goals."
This is significant for two reasons. First, if the Clarke of 2002 was telling the truth, then the Clarke of this week -- the one who told the Sept. 11 commission under oath that "fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration -- certainly [there was] no higher priority" -- is a liar.
Second, he becomes not just a perjurer but a partisan perjurer. He savages Bush for not having made al Qaeda his top national security priority, but he refuses even to call a "mistake" Clinton's staggering dereliction in putting Yasser Arafat and Yugoslavia(!) above fighting al Qaeda.
Byron York, National Review’s White House correspondent, takes Clinton's Clarke defense apart piece by piece.
York writes that when Clinton met resistence in getting the forces at his command to go after bin Laden, Clinton gave up. York uses four citations to Clarke's book to demolish Clinton's Clarke defense.
The former president also raised the wagging of the dog in his defense. Wag the dog is a reference to the theory, conspiracy if you like, that the cruise missile attacks Clinton ordered after the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were unnecessary and only meant to distract from the president's Lewinski troubles. Clinton tried to use it as an excuse, imoplying that had he done more he would be accuse of wagging the dog.
ABC's Jake Tapper counters this, reminding us that most lawmakers from both parties were quick to rally behind Clinton. Tapper points out that Senators Ashcroft, Coats, and Specter did raise wag the dog, but the "mainstream" media did a lot more to raise the wag the dog theory, than did the GOP leadership apparatus.
President Clinton also used his Republican secretary of defense, William Cohen, as a shield against the perceived criticism. Krauthammer in his "Sept. 11, Lies and 'Mistakes'" article contains a passage which explains why invoking Cohen in his defense was also a mistake on Clinton's part:
As Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen testified, three times the CIA was ready with plans to assassinate Osama bin Laden. Every time, Clinton stood them down, because "we're not quite sure."
When I first saw the teaser footage Fox released showing the former president becoming unhinged, I thought this must have been a prepared temper tantrum designed to gain some political advantage. After watching the whole interview I believe Clinton just snapped, he seemed truly out of control. If you haven't seen the interview, you should watch it so you can form your own opinion about the former president's tirade. The You Tube video can be watched below and the FoxNews transcript is available here.