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9.24.2006

Bill Clinton's Continuing Meltdown

Boy, howdy but that was some spectacle on Fox News Sunday this morning when Bill Clinton completely lost it and went all Daily Kos on Chris Wallace.

Byron York fact checks the factually-challenged former president:

"I worked hard to try and kill him," former president Bill Clinton told Fox News Sunday. "I tried. I tried and failed."

"Him" is Osama bin Laden. And in his interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace, the former president based nearly his entire defense on one source: Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, the book by former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke. "All I'm asking is if anybody wants to say I didn't do enough, you read Richard Clarke's book," Clinton said at one point in the interview. "All you have to do is read Richard Clarke's book to look at what we did in a comprehensive systematic way to try to protect the country against terror," he said at another. "All you have to do is read Richard Clarke's findings and you know it's not true," he said at yet another point. In all, Clinton mentioned Clarke's name 11 times during the Fox interview.

But Clarke's book does not, in fact, support Clinton's claim. Judging by Clarke's sympathetic account -- as well as by the sympathetic accounts of other former Clinton aides like Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon -- it's not quite accurate to say that Clinton tried to kill bin Laden. Rather, he tried to convince -- as opposed to, say, order -- U.S. military and intelligence agencies to kill bin Laden. And when, on a number of occasions, those agencies refused to act, Clinton, the commander-in-chief, gave up.

Clinton did not give up in the sense of an executive who gives an order and then moves on to other things, thinking the order is being carried out when in fact it is being ignored. Instead, Clinton knew at the time that his top military and intelligence officials were dragging their feet on going after bin Laden and al Qaeda. He gave up rather than use his authority to force them into action.

Examples are all over Clarke's book. On page 223, Clarke describes a meeting, in late 2000, of the National Security Council "principals" -- among them, the heads of the CIA, the FBI, the Attorney General, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretaries of State, Defense. It was just after al Qaeda's attack on the USS Cole. But neither the FBI nor the CIA would say that al Qaeda was behind the bombing, and there was little support for a retaliatory strike. Clarke quotes Mike Sheehan, a State Department official, saying in frustration, "What's it going to take, Dick? Who the shit do they think attacked the Cole, fuckin' Martians? The Pentagon brass won't let Delta go get bin Laden. Hell they won’t even let the Air Force carpet bomb the place. Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?"

That came later. But in October 2000, what would it have taken? A decisive presidential order -- which never came.


Bill Clinton is apparently only decisive on the terrorism issue when asked a simple question outside of his usual fawning haunts.

You might want to put some ice on that, Chris.

Update:

Mark Levin's on my wavelength:

Bill Clinton is nuttier than a pecan pie. He has spent the last six years traveling the globe dumping on George Bush. Yet he turns into an emotional wreck when Fox's Chris Wallace tries to ask him a few questions about his demonstrable failure to pursue aggressively Osama bin Laden after repeated al Qaeda attacks on Americans and American interests. Here.

Do you think his smear of "neo-cons" (which has become a codeword for Jews) will receive the kind of attention that George Allen's "macaca" reference received from the likes of the Washington Post? Do you think questions will be raised about Clinton's temperament? We got a glimpse of the Bill Clinton described to us by so many of his female victims over the years as he appeared close to actually assaulting Wallace.

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