First, National Review’s man in Europe Denis Boyles likens Richard Clarke to Dilbert:
He had everything but the wonky tie and the instinct for self-preservation. Speaking up in the quarterly sales meeting, he’s the long-suffering guy who wants us to know that he’s always right, that everybody else is always wrong, that his boss is nuts, and that he would have spoken up sooner, but he was having some very serious computer problems.
Richard Clarke’s performance before an august bipartisan commission and its cheering, clapping D.C. audience was like Dilbert on Springer. It was covered extensively by BBC and European broadcasters, of course, because it was good TV: A simple but good man surrounded by wicked unbelievers. Former Illinois governor James Thompson tried to scourge him by pointing out that the remarks he gave in a press briefing before he resigned were different than the remarks he was making now. But Clarke bravely withstood the pain. He had lied at the briefing, he said, because it was his job to lie.
Later on, he provides a link to the UK’s Independent, where William S. Farish asks:
Who is Richard Clarke? For 30 years, he was a civil servant in the United States government. When President Bush assumed office, he kept Dick Clarke on as his principal counter-terrorism expert. In return, Clarke has written a new book giving his view of events. He has accompanied its release with an orchestrated array of books and self-promotion interviews, to launch a political attack on President Bush and his administration in the hothouse atmosphere of a presidential campaign season. This is a good atmosphere to sell books, perhaps, but not one designed for a cold examination of the facts….
Clarke is also off-target in his accusations concerning the Bush administration’s views on Iraq, in relation to the 11 September attacks. While the President and his administration were legitimately concerned about the threat posed by Iraq – a concern shared by the Clinton administration, which established the formal policy supporting regime change in Iraq – President Bush’s team completed a comprehensive strategy to eliminate al-Qa’ida well before it completed its strategy to address Iraq. In fact, his directive to eliminate al-Qa’ida was President Bush’s first major foreign policy directive.
Huh. Well, let’s see what Mark Steyn says in The Telegraph:
Yessir, for eight years the Clinton administration was relentless in its commitment: no sooner did al-Qa’eda bomb the World Trade Center first time round, or blow up an American embassy, or a barracks, or a warship, or turn an entire nation into a terrorist training camp, than the Clinton team would redouble their determination to sit down and talk through the options for a couple more years. Then Bush took over and suddenly the superbly successful fight against terror all went to hell.
I fell asleep talking about this last week, and I can still feel my eyelids slipping down…need…more…caffeine….
Sorry. Anyhow, it’s still a non-story as far as I’m concerned, but as long as I watch TV, read the news, or read blogs, I see it, so I’m going to throw in my two pfennigs. The reason why I call it a non-story is because Clarke’s book and testimony can be so twisted to serve either side’s political ends that it winds up becoming a total wash. I happen to believe that the “Eight Years vs. Eight Months” argument is pretty compelling, but others don’t. Book sales; credibility issues; lying, covering up; and naked, unabashed, in-your-face political opportunism: it’s a gigantic shit sandwich that the American people are forced to eat. What gets lost in the end is the main issue: Islamic terrorists want to kill us and all of our friends, and just what do we do about it? President Bush says that we have to fight. I agree. So far, it seems to be working.
I just hope that we all can get a cupful of Scope before the next sandwich gets put on our plate.