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The GOP returns fire on Clarke

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted March 29, 2004

Richard Clarke obviously wanted a full-fledged rumble, and now he has it. The battlelines are drawn -- it's the Democratic spinmeisters, their liberal media cronies, and pointman Clarke, against the GOP that has truth on its side.

Clarke is nothing more than a shameless self-promoter with a partisan agenda, acting in association with Rand Beers, a top advisor to presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Moreover, Clarke's current criticisms of President George W. Bush clearly contradict his prior statements from an August 2002 press briefing and private testimony before the 9/11 Commission. John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission, succinctly sized-up Clarke when he advised him, "You've got a real credibility problem."

Richard Clarke is sworn in to testify on Capitol Hill to the federal panel reviewing the Sept. 11 attacks, on March 24

This is primarily about election year politics as the Democrats, through Clarke, attempt to damage President Bush's outstanding record on national security and battling terrorism. And it's secondarily about the man himself, Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism advisor to President Bush and holdover from the Clinton era, who has an ego as big as Montana and felt slighted when the Bush administration failed to sufficiently coddle him. Clarke is an incredibly angry man. Make no mistake, Clarke was never a loyal member of the Bush team -- he just played along until he got himself another gig. However, Clarke is now superbly promoting his new book, Against All Enemies, despite its profoundly partisan slant and outright falsehoods. Moreover, given Clarke's public apology to the victims of 9/11 and overall grandstanding, he apparently felt compelled to act-out his own sense of guilt in a very public venue before the 9/11 Commission. As many have already underscored, if Clarke is truly sincere, he can best make reparations by providing the 9/11 families with monies garnered from his book sales.

We now know that Clarke expected more "face time", more meetings, with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and President Bush, which were not forthcoming. When the Bush administration didn't appear to be hanging on his every word, Clarke became thoroughly disgruntled. However, Clarke didn't realize that President Bush was indeed cognizant of everything that he and other staff members were espousing, and that the Bush administration was diligently addressing the al-Qaida matter. As Vice President Dick Cheney stated, "Clarke wasn't in the (information) loop" – he was specializing in cyberterrorism. Therefore, how could he truly evaluate the administration's overall counterterrorism efforts?

Clarke's pivotal contentions are enmeshed with his enormous ego. According to Clarke, the Bush team failed to heed his warnings and failed to act with due diligence regarding the al-Qaida threat. Clarke wants Americans to accept his fanciful notion that the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11 could have been averted if only the president listened to his concerns. How rich! However, Clarke clearly doesn't know what he's talking about, as well expressed by Condoleezza Rice who further explained that the Bush team was urgently focused upon al-Qaida from the get-go. Rice indicated, "We were pursuing what the Clinton administration had been doing, we were developing a more robust strategy to try and eliminate al-Qaida" (Fox News).

The mendacious Richard Clarke is now drawing cogent rebuke from the Republican camp, particularly for his current criticisms of President Bush that contradict his prior statements. Essentially, Clarke has gone on the offensive these past few weeks, denigrating the Bush team's approach to terrorism in his new book, and in tandem with his televised statements (CBS "60 Minutes", PBS "News Hour", testimony before the 9/11 Commission, etc.). In August 2002, Richard Clarke told reporters that early on it was decided that the Bush team would "increase CIA resources for covert action five-fold to go after al-Qaida." The Bush team had hit the ground running on the al-Qaida issue. Well, was Mr. Clark lying in the past, or is he lying now? And why the flip-flop?

Astonishingly, even Time Magazine, which usually aligns itself with the lock-step liberal position on any given subject, remarks on Clarke's blatant animus toward President Bush, stating, "Clarke's televised comments (were) designed to disparage the President and his aides at all cost." Clarke now charges that the White House team failed to hold meetings on al-Qaida in a timely manner. Journalist Romesh Ratnesar expounds, "While it is technically true that the White House did not hold a Cabinet-level meeting on al-Qaida until September 4, the charge is still misleading since Bush, as early as April 2001, had instructed Rice to draft a strategy for rolling back al-Qaida and killing bin Laden, saying he was tired of swatting flies."

Moreover, Ratnesar elaborates on Clarke's ever-morphing stories. On "60 Minutes", Clarke claimed that Bush was "intimidating" toward him, when he stated, "Iraq, Saddam – find out if there's a connection (to 9/11)." And, according to Ratnesar, Clarke "sexed up the story even more" on PBS, alleging that Bush was not interested in a fair and objective report from him, but only a definitive report leading to Iraq and al-Qaida. Again, Clarke charged that Bush was "very vigorous, very intimidating." However, Clarke characterizes this same event altogether differently in his book, with Bush reportedly stating: "I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this." Here, the tenor and even the substance of the conversation have changed, so Clarke's veracity naturally comes into question. Ratnesar notes that Bush "sounds more ruminative than intimidating" in this particular passage. It's Ratnesar's overall opinion that, "While Clarke claims that he is an independent not driven by partisan motives, it's hard not to read some passages in his book as anything but shrill broadsides" and he references the "mean-spiritedness that lies at the heart of Clarke's book."

On "60 Minutes", NSA Condoleezza Rice noted that "President Bush never talks to staff in an intimidating way" – and she was present for the conversation that Clarke alludes to in his book. She also indicated that President Bush's question on Iraq in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 "made perfectly good sense." Moreover, Ms. Rice underscored that we must remember that it was "Afghanistan (not Iraq) that became the focus of the American response." And, before 9/11, "of course terrorism was an urgent problem. We were looking for a comprehensive plan" to tackle terrorism. Ms Rice's statements effectively undercut the basis of Clarke's complaints, especially in view of a host of inconsistencies that he's already exhibited.

All this begs the question that if Clarke was so brilliant, why didn't he work his magic on behalf of his beloved Clinton administration when he was part of that team? American assets were being hit left and right by al-Qaida operatives during the Clinton years: Twin Towers, NYC (1993), Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia (1993), Saudi National Guard office in Riyadh that employed about 100 Americans (1994), Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia (1996), the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), and the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen (2000). It was Clarke who lauded former president Bill Clinton to the hilt, and even claimed that the Clinton administration would have been more likely to stave off the 9/11 attacks. Is Clarke kidding? With the Clinton administration's abysmal track record on terrorism?

Clarke's nothing more than a legend in his own mind, an incompetent trying to deflect from his own bungled job performance. Clarke worked for both the Clinton and Bush administrations and failed both presidents miserably, as evidenced by the ongoing al-Qaida assaults on Americans, both at home and abroad, between 1993 and 2001. Certainly, former President Clinton has to accept the ultimate responsibility for his sorely inadequate response to al-Qaida, but arguably Clinton wasn't receiving the best of advice from Richard Clarke.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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