Rice's response to Bob Kerrey (transcript -- scroll down) is amusing:
KERREY: Why didn't we swat that fly?
RICE: I believe that there's a question of whether or not you respond in a tactical sense or whether you respond in a strategic sense; whether or not you decide that you're going to respond to every attack with minimal use of military force and go after every -- on a kind of tit-for-tat basis.
By the way, in that memo, Dick Clarke talks about not doing this tit-for-tat, doing this on the time of our choosing.
RICE: I'm aware, Mr. Kerrey, of a speech that you gave at that time that said that perhaps the best thing that we could do to respond to the Cole and to the memories was to do something about the threat of Saddam Hussein.
That's a strategic view...
And we took a strategic view. We didn't take a tactical view. I mean, it was really -- quite frankly, I was blown away when I read the speech, because it's a brilliant speech. It talks about really...
... an asymmetric...
KERREY: I presume you read it in the last few days?
RICE: Oh no, I read it quite a bit before that. It's an asymmetric approach.
We may be stumped. A lesser candidate for the speech in question would be Kerrey's prepared statement to a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Iraq in March 2001.
However, we lean towards this "Panel Discussion on Economic And National Security After September 11th" from the November 14, 2001 Concord Coalition Economic Patriots Dinner. The panelists were Warren B. Rudman, Sam Nunn, J. Robert Kerrey, Robert Rubin, and Paul Volcker, although reading the discussion quickly might leave one suspecting the presence of Glenn Reynolds, Steven Den Beste, and Andrew Sullivan. My only hesitation in saying "this is the speech!" is due to the fact that it is Mr. Rudman who refers to asymmetric threats in this discussion, rather than Mr. Kerrey. However, he is undeniably brilliant. We'll geta bit of flavor with his thoughts about how to improve airline security:
But in terms of hijacking the plane, they’d be better off simply saying: We’re going to lock the pilot up, and the new rules say you don’t turn the cockpit over under any circumstances at all. And then, you know, rather than taking away our metal knives and giving us a plastic knife, just ask the passengers to volunteer to put down anybody who wants to get up and hijack the plane. They’d be better off putting a hard rubber mallet in every “barf bag” in the plane -- (laughter) -- and let us take care of the damn problem.
And on Iraq:
MR. PETERSON: Let’s move to another subject. (Laughter.)
There’s a lot of talk about how we ought to take on Iraq, and that we think they’ve got biological weapons, and we think that they have them weaponized, and they may have nuclear materials. But what’s less clear to me is what we mean exactly by “taking on Iraq,” particularly if they don't do anything overt; particularly if we don’t demonstrate that they were involved in September 11th.
So can you give me some scenarios that you think are sensible, that put some meat on the bones of how we’re going to take on Iraq? What do we mean by this?
MR. KERREY: Invade Iraq and liberate 24 million Iraqis. That’s what I’d do.
MR. RUDMAN: Well I tell you Pete -- (Laughter and applause.)
MR. PETERSON: Bob, you’re just filled with ambiguity tonight.
MR. KERREY: Well, I just --
-- look, I mean we spend at least $2 billion a year on a military strategy right now. We’ve got a no-fly zone in the north, a no-fly zone in the south, and guess what? bin Laden’s first attack on Khobar Towers in 1996 occurred because we had military forces in Saudi Arabia after Desert Storm.
So they’re there to contain Saddam Hussein. We have a containment policy in place, we’ve had it in place since 1991, and, you know, again, just sort of measured by the success -- it has reduced Iraq’s capability and it’s reduced the size of the threat but, as long as he’s organizing and loose in our backfield we’ve got problems.
He had thoughts about the Arab street and public opinion:
MR. PETERSON: ...The number that I found stunning -- this was a series of focus interviews that was allegedly done by a very respected organization -- they said 85 percent of the Saudi males, in answer to a series of questions, were supportive of bin Laden.
A stunning percentage of the women were supportive of bin Laden. Now, if you want to visualize a scenario that will entertain you to no end, imagine bin Laden moving in --
MR. KERREY: They said the same thing in Kabul three days ago and they’re all shaving their beards today. (Laughter.) I’m not sure you can count on that opinion poll being very reliable.
And his big finish:
MR. KERREY: I don’t disagree with that, Sam. I think sequencing it is right and God knows I would not volunteer to be a diplomat in that effort, obviously from the way I’ve talked, but --
-- I was there in 1996 and 1998 and the year 2000 when we were attacked at Khobar Towers and Dar Es Salaam, and Nairobi, Kenya, and the Cole. And we said we’ve got to have a military response, and their answer was: the Muslim world is going to get pissed. Well, tough. You declared war on us, for God sakes.
And so if there’s a threat against the United States I don’t disagree with the need to sequence. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, but bottom line is, if we judge that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the people in the United States of America then I’d say all bets are off. Because we express this undying concern for the instability we would create; if we responded after we -- we knew who did Khobar Towers, we knew who did the East African embassy bombings, and we knew who did the Cole.
But we were worried about Muslim sensibilities and instability and blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, and then all of a sudden we get 5,000 of our people killed, and the world changes. And I’d say thank God it has and I say don’t forget it, because you’ll be in trouble if you don’t.
MR. NUNN: Bob if you have --
That's my guess as to what Condi Rice called "brilliant". Here's my idea.
UPDATE: Matt Yglesias is very funny on Kerrey.