Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 31, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Daily Clarke, 3/31/04
So the Bush Administration gets thrown in the briar patch yet again by allowing Condi Rice to testify. You gotta admit, Bush sure knows when to fold 'em. I'm actually distressed at the precedent here - refusing to let the National Security Council staff testify is something other administrations have stood for as well (including the 1999 refusal to allow Richard Clarke to testify). Chalk up another one for how little this whole September 11 commission will accomplish besides just scoring political points.
More on the Clarke Affair:
*Gregg Easterbrook notes that Clarke's newfound opposition to the Iraq war was undetectable in his commentary on the war on ABC News at the time.
*Econopundit notes that "You know you're dealing with a guy who voted for Al Gore" from this item:
Told that he had to vacate his warren of offices overlooking the Ellipse...in order to make room for the NSC communications and speechwriting staff, Clarke threatened to sue.
(Emphasis added by Econopundit). From that same MSNBC story, I found this Rumsfeld quote amusing:
During the Clinton administration, [Clarke] would call midlevel Defense officials and bluster, "The White House wants ..." Bush's Defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, forbade underlings to respond to Clarke unless the request came through proper channels. "The White House doesn't do [or want] anything," Rumsfeld acidly declared. "The White House is a building. The Pentagon doesn't do anything either. But I am secretary of Defense and I damned well can do things."
This administration came into office to discover that al Qaeda had been allowed to grow into a full-blown menace. It lost six precious weeks to the Florida recount - and then weeks after Inauguration Day to the go-slow confirmation procedures of a 50-50 Senate. As late as the summer of 2001, pitifully few of Bush's own people had taken their jobs at State, Defense, and the NSC. Then it was hit by 9/11. And now, now the same people who allowed al Qaeda to grow up, who delayed the staffing of the administration, who did nothing when it was their turn to act, who said nothing when they could have spoken in advance of the attack - these same people accuse George Bush of doing too little? There's a long answer to give folks like that - and also a short one. And the short one is: How dare you?
Clarke implies that the Bush administration should have made Al Qaeda the highest priority -- as it supposedly was during the second term of the Clinton administration. However, the Clinton sections have a familiar refrain -- Clarke's team tries to get the government to move, the White House is behind the push, and the effort dies somewhere in the bowels of the CIA, FBI, or the Pentagon. Now, the heads of the CIA and FBI were unchanged during the first eight months of the Bush administration, and Rumsfeld's difficulties with the uniformed brass at Defense during those months prompted rumors of resignation. So it's hard to see how anything would have changed unless the Bush team had focused on Al Qaeda to the exclusion of all other foreign policy priorities, which no one, not even Clarke, was suggesting at the time.
Drezner also leads us to this typically pointed Christopher Hitchens analysis, noting that Clarke, David Kay and other prominent Clinton-era officials were quite convinced of Saddam Hussein's ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in 1998.