The Corner

The Clarke Eruption

Next week promises to be Richard Clarke’s 15 minutes. But, from the sounds of it, it’s also going to be a pain in the side that will become part of the Dem mantra during the course of the campaign-more effective, but in the grand tradition of a Paul O’Neill.

An insider gives me a little Clarke backstory:

Richard Clarke was a fairly low level functionary in the Reagan and

Bush 41 admins before rising in the Clinton admin to a virtual cabinet

level post of national counter-terrorism coordinator, a job that really

no longer exists because strategy of the current admin is to eradicate

al Qaeda, not merely to contain it with extraditions and prosecutions —

which means it is now in the hands of the NSC & DOD, where it should

have been all along. When Bush II came in, among the first things he

directed was an entire rethinking of the anemic Clinton anti-terror

strategy (at the actual cabinet and NSC level — meaning Veep, Rice,

Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet and their deputies), which demoted Clarke. BUT, rather than firing Clarke the prez kept him on with

the understanding that he should continue doing his important work while

the new strategy was being developed and implemented (which took some

time both b/c of the nature of the task and the happenstance that the

controversy over the election meant that a lot of important admin

staffing was not completed until well into summer 2001).

Clark is bitter at his fall from the perch, and that is now coming

home to roost. He has written a book that is about to be released and

will be absolutely devastating because it gives the media exactly what

they want: someone they can portray as an “insider” who will explicitly

say (a) that the Bush admin did not take terrorism seriously in the

run-up to 9/11; (b) that he told Bush right after 9/11 (I believe he

says it happened on 9/12) that there was no connection b/w al Qaeda and

Iraq — and therefore could be no connection b/w Saddam and 9/11 — at

which point Bush, angrily, told him to check again and next time come

back w/ the right answer (i.e., essentially to make up a connection

whether it was there or not); (c) that the Afghanistan operation was not

the raging success it appeared to be; and (d) that the decision to take

the war on terror to Iraq, aside from being based on a false premise

that Iraq had anything to do with terrorism, badly compromised the

actual war on terror by diverting essential resources. Lesley Stahl and

60 Minutes will be doing a segment on it…and

Clarke is already making the rounds (he was the no. 2 story — after the

anniversary of the Iraq invasion — on CBS evening news Friday night).

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