The Bill Clinton - Chris Wallace interview has brought out the fact-checkers:
Patterico finds that, contra Clinton, Fox News has asked a Bush official the same "connect the dots" questions that were put to Clinton;
Jim Geraghty at NRO pummels Clinton's notion that Osama was not part of the Somalia story;
And I will take a swing at Clinton's claim that his problems with Somalia were compounded by right-wing critics:
CLINTON: And I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans, who now say I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was too obsessed with bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neo-cons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say I didn’t do enough said I did too much — same people.
They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in Black Hawk down, and I refused to do it and stayed six months and had an orderly transfer to the United Nations.
Let's cut to the NY Times summary of the discussion in Oct 1993 following the "Black Hawk Down" debacle:
President Clinton and Senate leaders struggled today to beat back a proposal that would require United States troops to pull out of Somalia earlier than the timetable the President has set.
It was a day of lengthy closed-door meetings, deal-making, competing compromises and hints that the White House might speed up the removal of the forces from Somalia.
The arguments heard in the Senate created some of the oddest alliances on Capitol Hill in recent memory. Two of Mr. Clinton's strongest critics, Bob Dole, the Republican leader, and Sam Nunn, Democrat of Georgia, sided with the President to turn back a effort by Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, one of the most partisan Democrats in Washington. Clinton Deadline May Shift
Mr. Dole and Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine, the majority leader, worked to win support for a proposal that would essentially grant formal approval to the limited mission Mr. Clinton spelled out last week. The two leaders predicted tonight that they and Mr. Byrd would come to a compromise on Thursday.
The Senate leadership is hoping to avoid an embarrassing defeat for the President that they fear would undercut the military in Somalia and in future crises. Mr. Dole argued that if an early date were set, Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid, the Somali faction leader being hunted by the United Nations, could lie in wait and strike as soon as the United States troops leave.
But they conceded today that the strong tide of public opinion against military involvement required some further narrowing of the mission.
Led by Senator Byrd, several influential lawmakers have been mobilizing to cut off money for military operations in Somalia by Jan. 1, and winning overwhelming constituent support for their efforts. Byrd Wants Feb. 1 Cutoff
Seeking a compromise, Mr. Byrd rose on the Senate floor today to introduce a resolution that would set such a cutoff date at Feb. 1, and limit military operations to self-defense and securing the flow of relief supplies. The Byrd resolution would strictly prohibit efforts at "any extended nation-building or national reconciliation."
The Senator said his measure "gives the military ample time to conduct an orderly phase-out, reduce the possibilities of U.S. casualties that might occur over a more extended time period, and it provides times for the Administration to secure replacement forces for our combat units."
The proposal was a far cry from Mr. Byrd's call last month for an immediate withdrawal. But with the encouragement of the White House, Senator Mitchell and Senator Dole tried to come up with a resolution that would leave the President with the prerogatives they think he deserves as Commander in Chief. Warning About Starvation
As Senator John Glenn, Democrat of Ohio, put it, "I don't think anyone wants us to bug out and put Somalia in a starvation mode again."
Now to be fair, it may be that various conservatives and neocons had abandoned Dole and were hiding behind Byrd's skirts as he led the "Out Now" faction. But the Times evidently overlooked them, and the picture was a bit more nuanced than depicted by Clinton.
As to Clinton's notion that no one knew about Osama at the time if the incident in Oct 1993, well - this March 28, 1993 NY Times story headlined "Muslim Militants Share Afghan Link" mentions Osama Bin Laden:
Yemeni officials contend that Afghanistan veterans in Yemen, financed by Osama Binladen, a wealthy Saudi militant and former Afghan guerrilla now living in Khartoum, Sudan, have been behind a series of attacks, including two bombs in Aden hotels last year that killed an Australian tourist.
The article also mentions Muslim militants who trained in Afghanistan "the Afghans" as operating terror groups in "Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Jordan, Turkey and other predominantly Muslim states". Somalia is not cited, however.
Here is the Clinton quote from the interview:
OK, now let’s look at all the criticisms: Black Hawk down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even knew Al Qaida was a growing concern in October of ‘93.
As to whether there was a known link in 1993 between Osama and Somalia, I await further research. However, Osama as a source of trouble was a growing concern, or should have been.
MORE: Jake Tapper of ABC News sets Clinton straight on the notion that evil righties did not support his cruise missile attack into Afghanistan abd the Sudan in 1998.
But let me add this! Mr. Tapper presents the "next-day" reaction to the attacks; as questions emerged about just what target we had hit in the Sudan (pharmaceutical factory? milk factory?), critics also emerged. Chris Hitchens certainly comes to mind, as does Jimmy Carter; Clinton's defenders will want to probe a bit to support his assertion that the criticism came from the right.
This summary from Ryan Hendrickson, written in 2002, agrees with Mr. Tapper's point that the Reublican leadership was on board and reinforces his point that Clinton's real problem was with the press:
Although Clinton had the backing of Congress and the American public for the strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, in the days and months following the attacks journalists and others began to raise questions about the intelligence used to justify the action in Sudan. ... On August 29, the New York Times reported that the CIA's intelligence on al-Shifa may have been flawed, and at minimum incomplete. It was unclear whether the agency had reported to the president that al-Shifa had a pharmaceutical contract with the United Nations and was Sudan's largest producer of medicines. Moreover, the report suggested that the plant was not the tightly guarded facility described by Pentagon officials in the hours immediately following the strike. While journalists had begun exposing some of the controversial aspects of the intelligence gathered by the CIA, defenders of the strike continued to maintain that al-Shifa was a legitimate target and that even with questionable evidence it still would have been targeted. The questions raised, however, were convincing enough for former president Carter to call for an investigation of the plant and the United States' decision to target it. The last major challenge in 1998 to the administration's actions again came from the New York Times. Reporters Tim Weiner and James Risen reiterated concerns about Bin Laden's precarious connection to al-Shifa and raised further questions about U.S. policy toward Sudan, which had been a major source of disagreement among Clinton officials during the preceding two years.