The reaction to Clarke’s 60 Minutes interview has been fierce and all over the map. As Neologic traces the press response yesterday, he notices that the ledes in the majors aren’t Clarke’s charges, as they would be normally, but are instead about the Bush Admin’s reaction to those charges. The charges themselves are buried in stories that are basically about the govt response. By any legitimate journalistic policy you can measure, this is bass-ackwards. Only during the Bush Administration do we print the BA’s response to charges before we print the charges themselves. This is like when the Supreme Court reversed twenty years of conservative upholding of states’ rights so they could interfere in Florida and give the Presidency to friend Bush–it has to be deliberate; no way all these major newspapers with long traditions could accidentally throw out 100 years of established press procedure at the same time.
As for the BA’s response, well, it’s a mess, and a nasty mess at that. Cheney says Clarke was “out of the loop”, then Jim Wilkinson, Dir Comm Dan Bartlett’s go-to PR hack, says 9/11 was Clarke’s fault because he was in charge.
I would say that, since this president’s been here, two-thirds of al Qaeda have been captured or killed. I would say, I would remind you that Dick Clarke was in charge of counterterrorism policy when the African embassies were bombed. Dick Clarke was in charge of counterterrorism policy when the USS Cole was bombed. Dick Clarke was in charge of counterterrorism policy in the time preceding 9/11 when the threat was growing
Come on, guys, get your stories straight. Marshall tears Wilkinson’s sorry ass into tiny pieces and leaves them wriggling on the floor. Where they belong, I might add.
But that’s just the beginning. The Center for American Progress has a rap sheet on the statements being made by the various BA mouthpieces and compares them with the actual facts. The BA don’t come out lookin’ so good. Here’s just a couple of the points they made:
CLAIM #5: “The president launched an aggressive response after 9/11.”
– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04FACT: “In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document shows. The papers show that Ashcroft ranked counterterrorism efforts as a lower priority than his predecessor did, and that he resisted FBI requests for more counterterrorism funding before and immediately after the attacks.”
– Washington Post, 3/22/04
CLAIM #6: “Well, [Clarke] wasn’t in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff…”
– Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/22/04
FACT: “The Government’s interagency counterterrorism crisis management forum (the Counterterrorism Security Group, or “CSG”) chaired by Dick Clarke met regularly, often daily, during the high threat period.”
– White House Press Release, 3/21/04
They’re not just contradicting each other, they’re contradicting themselves. Matt Yglesias in The American Prospect notes that right-wing pundits have yet another take–Clarke, like O’Neill and DiIulio before him, are pissed off, and anyway 9/11 was Clinton’s fault.
The right’s reaction so far has been dismissive. Speaking on ABC’s This Week, George Will characterized Clarke’s revelations as “a seriously angry book by a seriously angry man,” a reaction reminiscent of the theory that Paul O’Neill’s exposure of the administration’s deeply flawed domestic policies is “sour grapes.” The official White House line, aside from dark warnings that Clarke is now fair game for personal attacks, is that this business about meetings isn’t important. Spokesman Scott McCormack told The New York Times’s Philip Shenon that “we actively pursued the Clinton administration’s policies on al-Qaeda until we could get into place a more comprehensive policy,” seemingly conceding that Clinton had an appropriate strategy. Last week National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took a slightly different line, telling CNN that Clinton’s policies are “what led to September 11.”
But Yglesias pulls out an article that Condi wrote for Foreign Affairs back in the winter of 2000 and notes that her list of National Security concerns doesn’t include terrorism.
Rice proposed eliminating Clinton’s confusion with the following priorities: First, ending the overstretch of the American military; second, promoting free trade, particularly with Latin America; third, encouraging Europe to develop a more robust military capacity within the NATO context; fourth, improving relations with Russia and China; and fifth, dealing “decisively” with rogue states.Al-Qaeda was not on the list, nor did the organization appear anywhere in Rice’s 6,900-word discussion of the threats facing the United States. Terrorism was discussed, only briefly, as problematic because rogue states — specifically Iran, presumably working through Hezbollah — might seek to use it as an instrument of policy. Because the main thesis of the article was the need to bring about a more disciplined approach, it seems safe to conclude that Rice favored not continuing the Clinton administration’s al-Qaeda policies but rather abandoning them in favor of doing, well, nothing — so as to leave more time to pursue other priorities. After the election, outgoing National Security Adviser Sandy Berger agreed that more focus was needed and told his successor that she should make al-Qaeda her top priority. As Clarke tells us, she did not. (emphasis added)
Condi was not alone. According to a memo Rumsfeld wrote in the first weeks of the BA, Rumsfeld’s only concern with what he called “asymmetric responses” (terrorist acts) was with those sponsored by “small or medium sized states.” Rogue terrorists are never mentioned, nor, once again, is AQ. Those phrases come from para#3 in a document labeled “Post Cold War Threats”. Para#1, the set-up graf, makes it pretty clear that Rumsfeld intends to focus on finding an enemy-state successor to the Soviet Union.
1. The collapse of the Soviet Union has produced centrifugal forces in the world that have created new regional powers. Several of these are intensely hostile to the United States and are arming to deter us from bringing our conventional or nuclear power to bear in a regional crisis.
He knows there’s a ripe replacement enemy out there somewhere, and by God, he’s going to find it! Actually, reading between the lines, one can figure out what “region” he means fairly easily.
Add to this focus on states the fact that everybody in the BA from Rumsfeld to Ashcroft was cutting anti-terrorism funds from the bidget prior to 9/11 and even after–
Post 9/11 – Budget Document Detailing OMB Rejection of FBI Counter-Terror Request: Internal document showing that FBI requested $1.499 billion for counterterrorism for the post-September 11 emergency supplemental but received just $530 million from the White House, despite serious counterterrorism needs.
–and you’ve got a documented disinterest in fighting terrorism. Why is the Bush Admin gooid at fighting terrorism? Because they say they are.
Bush ’04 Campaign Motto: “Don’t look at what we do, listen to what we say we did. It sounds better.”
(Thanks to Phaedrus for the Neologic and CAP links)