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March 28, 2004



I really don't find the long Time mag attempt to find inconsistencies with the two accounts of the 9/12 Bush meeting convincing. There's not that much difference between 'indimidating' and 'testily', really. Lots of the attacks strike me as nitpicks. Besides, is it really that controversial to state that Bush was obssessed with invading Iraq? If one is pro-invading Iraq, one should see that as a good thing. But does anyone out there seriously think that Bush asked Clarke to look for Saddam-9/11 links so he could conclusively prove to Wolfowitz et al that there weren't any links (as the Time mag suggests)?

Brennan Stout

I bought the book. Clark himself has quite a few character attacks of his own. He calls James Woolsey a "cabalist". In his recollection of 9/11 he writes about going to visit the Vice President's location in the White House only to find the "right wing idealogue" chambers where Cheney, Rice, Lynne Cheney, Scooter Libby, Steven Hadley and Karen Hughes were locked down.


"There's not that much difference between 'indimidating' and 'testily', really."

Except that, er, one is about intimidation, and one can only be interpreted many ways, one being intimidation.


obssess: " To preoccupy the mind of excessively."

"Excessively" suggests, ahh, excessive. So no, I don't think Iraq-hawks will be cheered by the news that the President's concern with Iraq was excessive. For synonyms, let's try unreasonable, or, in a mental-health context, irrational. No, I don't like those either.

...does anyone out there seriously think that Bush asked Clarke to look for Saddam-9/11 links so he could conclusively prove to Wolfowitz et al that there weren't any links (as the Time mag suggests)?

Alternative reality - the Principals meet for the Big Briefing, and Clarke is there. The Evil Wolfowitz says, we think Iraq is involved. Powell groans audibly, Bush inwardly (work with me). Bush thinking to himself that he can silence Wolfowitz, turn to Clarke, for the following comedy classic:

W: Dick, do you think Iraq is involved.

Clarke: No, sir, we are convinced it is al Qaeda.

W: Did you consider the possibility that Iraq was involved?

Clarke: Sir, we never considered it.

W: You're an idiot. You had to know Wolfowitz would make this case, and you are leaving me here with no ammunition to shoot back.

Short answer, yes - I think it is quite canny of Bush to ask an Iraq skeptic to look at the possibility of Iraq involvement. As to his motive, who can tell? But Clarke's position (as described in the book, but not 60 Minutes) is quite reasonable also.

Another Thought

Clinton in his 2000 State of the Union had this among his opening lines:
"Never before has our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis and so few external threats."

That doesn't sound like someone who believed that terrorism or any "external threat" was that high of a priority. And it is in the opening statement that a speaker summarizes the speech; clearly Clinton was conveying the impression that we had few problems about which to worry.

The quote you cite above where Clinton speaks about terrorism is buried about 75% of the way through the speech...hardly where one would highlight one's "highest priority." Notice also in his remarks that Clinton lumps terrorists in with "narcotraffickers" and "organized criminals"...indicating again the mentality of terrorists being more of a criminal problem than a national security one.

When taken as a whole, Clinton's 2000 SOTU gave the clear impression of his opening statement: that America had few problems to worry about. There was no one in the country or the world who heard that speech and came away with the impression that terrorism was the highest priority for the Clinton administration.

Any attempt to recast history with Clinton being having terrorism as such a high priority is a misguided attempt to rescue the Clinton legacy.


Under "Clarke is a hero," you could put the Daily Show. I can't find transcripts, but over the last three shows (Tues, Weds, and Thurs), they were about to marry or canonize the guy - and now he's going to be on there tonight.

Another Thought

To try analysis from the perspective of common sense, and not worry about trying to parse words, etc.

Clarke claims now that for Clinton the terrorism issue was the highest priority. Yet you could not find anyone who lived through the Clinton years who if asked at the time what Clinton's highest priority was, would have answered "terrorism."

Anyone with half a memory of the 1990's knows that terrorism hardly hit the radar screen. Clinton and the American population was far more concerned with the stock market, the tech boom, etc.

Clinton spent most of his time telling us how good we had it under him. If terrorism was his top priority, wouldn't he have communicated that to us without a doubt? When any issue is an administration's highest priority, people know. People know through words...if terrorism was Clinton's highest priority shouldn't the majority of his words and speeches reflected on this issue? People know through deeds...if terrorism was the highest priority wouldn't the majority of his time and initiatives revolve around terrorism? People know through results...if terrorism was Clinton's highest priority, then why was Al Qaeda so demonstrably stronger and more active when Clinton left office?

Another Thought

In short, if a president is doing his job it should be obvious what his top priorities are.

We shouldn't need someone to come along after the fact to point it out.

It is absurd and laughable to even suggest that terrorism was Clinton's highest priority, or even among his top priorities. That does not square with history at all.


I do actually find the accusation that Clarke is spinning for Clinton pretty convincing.
But while you no doubt have a bright future as a screenwriter, Tom, your portrait of Bush does not accord with mine. During the runup to the war he was willing to throw most any accusation at Saddam, and he never gave any speeches saying "though Iraq clearly has no ties whatsoever to 9/11, there are still many good reasons to invade it". I'm pretty sure Bush would have been happy to find a good strong Iraq-9/11 link.
Also, Clarke's accusation that pre 9/11 Bush considered the threat of terrorism "important but not urgent" is backed up by Bush himself in Woodward's book. The quote where Bush says there was no urgency about terorism is sweeping the left-wing blogosphere. It is understandable, even defensible, that neither Bush or Clinton had no sense of urgency, and it does not make either one of them Hitler. That said, I'm surprised Bush unleashed the attack dogs on Clarke's relatively uncontroversial critique.
That Frist speech is one of the nastier pieces of rhetoric of this young year. He accuses Clarke of profiteering off the 9/11 dead, as if anyone who writes a book about 9/11 is exploiting it. At least he's not having a convention on Ground Zero or anything. Frist also backed up on that perjury accusation, admitting he had no idea if Clarke did perjure himself in testimony. Accusing people of crimes without evidence is not a good idea.
And fair enough on the point about the term 'obssessive', though no-one would have minded if Bush (and Clinton) were a lot more obssessive about Al-Quaeda.


Jon Stewart and TDS will consummate their relationship with Clarke tonight...


Just wanted to put in my $0.02 worth.

IIRC, in order to enable debate, what is said on the House or Senate floor is exempt from laws governing slander, or the bar is set much higher than in other venues. That is why Frist was able to attack Clark very hard on the Senate floor, but seemed to backpedal once he was off of it (and liable).





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