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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Clinton Interview Fallout

Count me in the minority of the opinionati who think that Clinton's explosion in his interview with Chris Wallace for Fox News Sunday was deliberate. It's a view shared by Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard and John Dickerson at Slate.

Many conservatives are pointing to Clinton yelling at his staff later for setting the interview up as proof that the display was unplanned. But like stories of the all too convenient death of Osama bin Laden, there's often purpose behind a Clinton disinformation effort.

It was pretty obvious to any who watched the video (part 1 & part2) that Clinton was spoiling for a fight as soon as he sat down. From the first question, a softball by Wallace, Clinton was ready to spin. From the transcript:

WALLACE: In a recent issue of the New Yorker you say, quote, "I'm 60 years old and I damn near died, and I'm worried about how many lives I can save before I do die."Is that what drives you in your effort to help in these developing countries?
CLINTON: Yes, I really — but I don't mean — that sounds sort of morbid when you say it like that. I mean, I actually ...
WALLACE: That's how you said it.
CLINTON: Yes, but the way I said it, the tone in which I said it was actually almost whimsical and humorous. That is, this is what I love to do. It is what I think I should do.

So we start off with Wallace reciting a direct Clinton quote and already the master is spinning and contentious.

Clinton spokesman, Jay Carson, had this to say after the interview:"We're fully aware of Fox News's and Chris Wallace's agenda, and President Clinton came in prepared to respond to any attack on his record...When Wallace questioned his record on terrorism, he responded forcefully, as any Democrat would or should."

"He responded forcefully, as any Democrat would or should." That was the plan in a nutshell.

John Dickerson at Slate describes it this way:

... In other words, he went in loaded for bear and blasted like Cheney as soon as he spotted one.

Did Clinton come across a little unhinged? Sure, but that's an advantage in a midterm election where party passion matters. Liberal activists want to see their Washington representatives fight back the way Clinton did. This was a rallying cry and a signal to other members of the party to do the same. Clinton can go to individual districts to campaign for competitive candidates, or he can sell the same message wholesale by banging the table in a single performance on Fox.

Clinton didn't just get the blood pumping among liberal activists. He made a policy critique aimed at the GOP election strategy designed to promote Republicans as the only party competent enough to handle terrorist threats. Each day people are discussing Clinton's performance or Wallace's questioning they will also be discussing which president did more to try to kill Bin Laden. Articles will revisit Bush's Aug. 6, 2001*, Presidential Daily Brief in which he was told al-Qaida was planning a major attack and to hijack planes, and producers will reinterview Richard Clarke, who says Bush dropped the ball. (Clarke's book, which is highly critical of the Bush team's pre-9/11 terror efforts, is in the top 10 on Amazon.)

The former president is also offering his wife the kind of help candidates don't usually get until they bring on their vice president. Bill can attack the right and mend fences with liberal activists, which benefits Hillary but also allows her the distance to stay above the fray.

If Bill Clinton becomes a hero of the liberal activists and liberal bloggers, it will be an extraordinary turnaround. Left-leaning bloggers who play a role in their party's politics usually savage him for triangulating and deal-making as president.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was National Security Advisor in the first Bush term responded to the claims that Bush did nothing about bin Laden in their first months in office:

RICE BOILS OVER AT BUBBA
RIPS 'FLATLY FALSE' CLAIM ON BUSH'S BID
TO GET BIN LADEN

By IAN BISHOP
New York Post

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday accused Bill Clinton of making "flatly false" claims that the Bush administration didn't lift a finger to stop terrorism before the 9/11 attacks.

Rice hammered Clinton, who leveled his charges in a contentious weekend interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel, for his claims that the Bush administration "did not try" to kill Osama bin Laden in the eight months they controlled the White House before the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false - and I think the 9/11 commission understood that," Rice said during a wide-ranging meeting with Post editors and reporters.

"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," Rice added.

The secretary of state also sharply disputed Clinton's claim that he "left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy" for the incoming Bush team during the presidential transition in 2001.

"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda," Rice responded during the hourlong session.

For the lefty Kool Aid drinkers who don't think Secretary Rice's statement is enough contradiction to Clinton's latest attempt at media manipulation, The American Thinker offers this excellent point by point, well documented post: "Bill Clinton, Bin Laden, and Hysterical Revisions."

And this from Dick Morris, who probably knows the real Clinton as well as anyone:

The real Clinton emerges
by Dick Morris
The Hill

From behind the benign facade and the tranquilizing smile, the real Bill Clinton emerged Sunday during Chris Wallace’s interview on Fox News Channel. There he was on live television, the man those who have worked for him have come to know – the angry, sarcastic, snarling, self-righteous, bombastic bully, roused to a fever pitch. The truer the accusation, the greater the feigned indignation. Clinton jabbed his finger in Wallace’s face, poking his knee, and invading the commentator’s space.

But beyond noting the ex-president’s non-presidential style, it is important to answer his distortions and misrepresentations. His self-justifications constitute a mangling of the truth which only someone who once quibbled about what the “definition of ‘is’ is” could perform.
...
The president told Wallace, “I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill bin Laden.” But actually, the 9-11 Commission was clear that the plan to kidnap Osama was derailed by Sandy Berger and George Tenet because Clinton had not yet made a finding authorizing his assassination. They were fearful that Osama would die in the kidnapping and the U.S. would be blamed for using assassination as an instrument of policy.

Clinton claims “the CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible [for the Cole bombing] while I was there.” But he could replace or direct his employees as he felt. His helplessness was, as usual, self-imposed.

Why didn’t the CIA and FBI realize the extent of bin Laden’s involvement in terrorism? Because Clinton never took the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center sufficiently seriously. He never visited the site and his only public comment was to caution against “over-reaction.” In his pre-9/11 memoirs, George Stephanopoulos confirms that he and others on the staff saw it as a “failed bombing” and noted that it was far from topic A at the White House. Rather than the full-court press that the first terror attack on American soil deserved, Clinton let the investigation be handled by the FBI on location in New York without making it the national emergency it actually was.

In my frequent phone and personal conversations with both Clintons in 1993, there was never a mention, not one, of the World Trade Center attack. It was never a subject of presidential focus.

Failure to grasp the import of the 1993 attack led to a delay in fingering bin Laden and understanding his danger. This, in turn, led to our failure to seize him when Sudan evicted him and also to our failure to carry through with the plot to kidnap him. And, it was responsible for the failure to “certify” him as the culprit until very late in the Clinton administration.

The former president says, “I worked hard to try to kill him.” If so, why did he notify Pakistan of our cruise-missile strike in time for them to warn Osama and allow him to escape? Why did he refuse to allow us to fire cruise missiles to kill bin Laden when we had the best chance, by far, in 1999? The answer to the first question — incompetence; to the second — he was paralyzed by fear of civilian casualties and by accusations that he was wagging the dog. The 9/11 Commission report also attributes the 1999 failure to the fear that we would be labeled trigger-happy having just bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by mistake....

The Clinton interview has generated an enormous amount of media buzz. Our friend Wordsmith at Hammering Sparks from the Anvil gets into the act:

SparksFromAnvil

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