Round-ups are all over the place regarding Former President Bill Clinton’s interview with Chris Wallace on today’s Fox News Sunday and Allahpundit has a cut of same.
I haven’t watched the video yet and plan to watch the full interview when it comes on in less that an hour from now. I had considered doing a round-up myself, but I started thinking about a certain DVD that I finally got to watch last night: United 93.
“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.
Juxtapose the dramatization of one of the greatest acts of collective heroism in battling our enemies against the idea that Former President Clinton was too afraid to risk unpopularity, to make the case for something in which he claims to have believed in—that Osama bin Laden was a grave threat to US national security and that he “needed killing”--and to exercise his prerogatives as Commander-in-Chief against that same enemy.
And juxtapose that against the fact that Clinton was manifestly not afraid to front the mild-mannered, mostly even-handed Chris Wallace. Little risk involved in that as opposed to the former. (Chris is definitely not his father, Mike. However Mike isn’t Mike anymore.)
I’m not really so upset about seeing the former president get raw on someone--and it’s playing quite well in some quarters. Like Jim Pinkerton, I now suspect that the confrontational attitude was a calculated two-pronged move to get Clinton’s message regarding his (in)actions against terrorism out into the public and to rally the faithful--those who believe that everyone who doesn’t agree with them is part of a conspiracy involving faxed talking points between a nebulous cadre of “right-wingers” taking their outlined and objective cues from talk radio and Fox News. He was quite successful on both counts.
The flaw in the tactic is this: no longer are we (meaning the average person with a modem) restricted to waiting weeks, months or years for governmental reports or interview transcripts. We can check such documents against the spoken word right now or, often, beforehand, as was the case here. Strip away all of the bug-eyed, physical finger-pointing, personal space-invading tactics which WJC deployed against his "fearsome enemy," Wallace; strip away all of the great theater contained the interview and strip away all of the great ratings which Fox News will accrue because of it. From there, all we are left with are words and action (or inaction) to read, observe, compare and come to conclusions.
Will update in a bit.
Well, the interview was all it has been cracked up to be. A few points:
1. I copied and pasted the transcript from Think Progress and followed along as the interview progressed. As someone who has transcribed documents for a living, let’s just say that the transcriber needs to hone his/her craft a bit better. Oddly enough, however, the portions of the transcript which involved the former president’s altruistic Clinton Global Initiative were almost word-for-word.
2. When Wallace asked WJC about whether Osama bin Laden had been influenced in his summation of American troops by the Somalia debacle, it sent him into a long rant. He claimed that Wallace had said that bin Laden and al-Qaeda were responsible for Somalia, something Wallace never said or implied.
3. WJC said that if he had gone into Afghanistan, he’d have more than 20,000 troops. Well, GWB probably would to if the NATO troops weren’t there also.
4. Richard Clarke seems to be heavily on WJC’s mind, as he promoted Clarke’s book countless times as being the definitive bible on the Clinton Administration’s efforts regarding combating bin Laden and his terror network. Problem is that, if Byron York’s excerpt above is any indication, Clarke’s retrospective isn’t as flattering as WJC seems to think it is. (I’ll check the library to see whether the book is available there.)
5. The CIA, the FBI and the “entire military” hated the then commander-in-chief wouldn’t “allow” him to act against bin Laden. So why didn’t he and his administration have the discipline to make the president’s case if “killing bin Laden” was the most important thing ever? Never mind. Forget I asked.
6. The rightwing and the Bush Administration are selling fear, according to WJC. Interestingly said. In his way—and probably inadvertently…maybe—the former president accused the right of selling the same commodity that all terrorists are selling, by the very definition of the word.
7. Again with the “right-wing conspiracy.” That mode of counterattack on WJC’s part lets me know that I was right about this being a calculated move. It fired up the base, alright, because, more than being logical, more than attempting to do what’s best for the country, a good portion of the hardcore left wants the ability to “tell off the right.” (That’s what trolling is about.) And when their champion does it on live TV and all over the internet, that means more that whether the objective truth was told.
A few days ago when this story broke, Dean Esmay and Ed Morrissey opined that we other rightish bloggers should have disdained the Clinton story as old news. Obviously, I don’t agree. We all have had to deal with people who twist events around to suit their personal/professional agendas at some point in our lives; well, at least I have. In nearly all cases, I backed down and said “have it your way” and in all those cases, I wish I hadn’t. Well, the stakes are infinitely greater here and I’m not talking about Bill Clinton’s legacy. I’m talking about our national legacy--for which I think that Bill Clinton will play an ever shrinking role—one in which the truth keeps being told; no matter how much a given delusionist ex-president wags his/her finger or spouts paranoia about being ganged up on.
Because truth is part of the liberty that’s supposed to be so dear to us.
UPDATE: And the fact-checking begins. Tammy Bruce cites OBL's 1998 Grand Jury Indictment which asserts that the terror mastermind was indeed involved in Somalia.
If the clip is any indication of the flavor of the entire interview, Former President Clinton twists events around admirably. He claims that “rightwingers” did nothing about terrorism during his tenure in the White House and blasted him for his own efforts. True, without the context of said events: “Rightwingers” did nothing about terrorism in the nineties because they were not sitting in the Executive Office—it wasn’t their place to “do something” about terrorism. It was his. And he was ridiculed for his efforts not because of his failure--as he terms it--but because of his fecklessness which could have lead to no other outcome but failure: some slipshod missile strikes and failing to act when partisans offer to hand bin Laden over to America. These "actions" did indeed incite ridicule. He also claims that his Republican successor did nothing about terrorism in the eight months preceding 9/11. True. But what about the 92 months of the Clinton administration—the time span between the February 1993 World Trade Center attack and the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, a span which contained several more al-Qaeda attacks on Americans, including the bombings of two US Embassies--where either nothing was done, ineffectual measures were taken or opportunities were bypassed?
During his administration, the former president wasn’t alone in one area of magnitudinal proportions: he did not understand the cultural mindset of the enemy we now have turned to face. Like many of us back then, he thought that we could live in the manner in which we chose and not interfere (too much) when others chose to live in another way. Addtionally, he (and we) thought that we could carry on with inserting the typical American interventions which had been our staple since World War Two. Germans and Japanese didn’t attack American interests abroad; nor did even Koreans or Vietnamese, so why would some group of Arab/Muslims do it? If one thinks about the shocking visciousness of 9/11 and remembers the plaintive inquiry from numerous quarters who wondered “why they hate us,” the mindset of the attacked victim comes flooding back. We couldn’t comprehend the notion of a group of people hating America (and the West) so much that such a group could inflict such a horrible, large-scale death on so many people.
I couldn’t (though I had a hunch). And I suspect that, before 9/11, most other Americans couldn’t either, in spite of the attacks which heralded 9/11. Could Bill Clinton conceive of such hatred during his presidency? His actions during that time point to a ‘no’ answer. And if one thinks about it and is honest, there is no shame in that. But we understand now—well, at least some of us.
Where there is indeed shame is in President Clinton’s behavior right now. If the video clip is any indication, the former president isn’t about to concede that his acts against terrorists were ineffectual or non-existent. It isn’t that he can’t admit that he was wrong (though that’s part of it). It’s that he can’t admit that he is no longer the perfectly loved and trusted president by a good part of this nation—even by people like me who voted for him twice. His behavior for most of the Bush Administration had even begun to garner more respect for him—especially in contrast to that of his vice-president. But he’s beginning to throw it all away. And the most pathetic part about that is this: most people who were disillusioned by his brands of politics, policy, strategy and tactics with regard to fighting terrorism could even have a modicum of respect for him were he to admit that he had been wrong in that area. But, unless the video clip distorts the nature of the interview, I don’t think that a Bill Clinton mea culpa for his anti-terror measures is in the offing. It was an act that last longer than might have been expected, but it's over now.
Here’s the thing about decisions: sometimes they are wrong and if one is fortunate and canny, only about half of them are. The worst types of decision-makers are these: 1) the one who makes a decision and does nothing or makes only token efforts to see that decision through, and 2) the one who, in the face of the dire need to decide, dithers. (A lesser type of bad decision-maker is the type who makes a decision and does everything possible to see that decision through even in the face of evidence that the original decision was a bad one. Some say that President Bush’s decision to intervene in Iraq was an example of such. Perhaps, but my personal opinion is that the jury’s decision isn’t final on that particular “long, hard slog.”)
Former President Clinton’s decision-making skills, at least as far as the War on Terrorists goes—the war which started long before his presidency and for which it should be acknowledged that his immediate few predecessors, Bush the Elder, Reagan, Carter, and Ford, also didn’t comprehend--fall under those first two categories. And what does that say about him? Nothing, expect that, like most of the rest of us, he didn’t understand the nature of Islamists and that he had bad advisers and/or he didn’t listen to the good ones. But, am I surprised that former president isn’t able to acknowledge his horrid errors in this vital area of the presidency? No, given his demonstrable nature and given the fact that his wife is probably looking to become president in 2008. However, I’m still angered and saddened by it, nonetheless.
I will be watching when the full interview is broadcast on Fox News Sunday two days from now. Perhaps, the clip isn't what it seems to be.
Based on the accounts of witnesses and loved ones' knowledge of the two men's characters, a devastating picture emerges of that tragic morning. [SNIP]
When the first plane hit the building, [Abe] Zelmanowitz, 55, and [Edward] Beyea, 42, both systems analysts for Blue Cross Blue Shield, fled the office with their co-workers. The elevators were not working, and Beyea, a 300-pound man in a heavy mechanized wheelchair, could not get down the stairs, which were choked with streams of panicked workers. [SNIP]
"He couldn't have left him," said Zelmanowitz's sister-in-law, Evelyn Zelmanowitz of Flatlands, N.Y. "That's what made Abe, Abe." [SNIP]
Both men were lost in the collapse of the north tower that morning. [SNIP]
There is some indication that they had made it to the 21st floor when the building collapsed. Their bodies have not been recovered.
Why are such men hated?
On that very day, I was sad, then furious and then filled with hate. I don’t feel the latter much any more, but, occasionally, it flairs up again; especially when I read about people like Misters Zelmanowitz and Beyea. Their families have nothing to bury; they only live with the memory of loved persons. And, meanwhile, other men and women are dying for having breathed in the dust of their bodies, along with the dust of their desks, their computers, the dust of Mr. Beyea’s wheelchair, the dust of the building in which they worked, and are dying from just plain grief.
Why don’t we hate them?
Do I hate them—the terrorists who murdered Misters Zelmanowitz and Beyea? No, not most of the time. Nor do I hate their liked-minded living brethren. Do I fear them? Most certainly not, but that’s merely because I learned to not fear those which can kill the body—also because I knew a long time ago that the goal of any terrorist is to instill fear. Can't give them that particular victory.
But why shouldn’t I hate those who would murder such seemingly innocuous, harmless and loving men like Zelmanowitz and Beyea? Because it does nothing for either me or those two men; I’m here and they’re bodies are now an integral part of New York City (along with those of hundreds of others who were never found in the wreckage of the Twin Towers).
So why does the story of these two formerly living men fill me with so much anger?
Because they were simply living well and they should have been left alone to go on living the same way. That they died well and honorably—like so many others on that day—is uplifting in a way, but guess what? I would have preferred that they had gone on living anonymously rather than to have become one of the footnotes in many a 9/11 post like this one.
And that’s why I hate the terrorists. Sometimes. Okay, often.