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March 28, 2004 - William Clarke testified. He was "mensch," as they say.

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I’m sure Fox News was not happy to report this about Richard Clarke’s testimony this week at the 9-11 hearings.

Clarke actually said this:


"My impression was that fighting terrorism in general and fighting Al Qaeda, in particular, was an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration.  Certainly, there was no higher priority," said Clarke, who also worked for former President Bill Clinton. 

Clarke also turned to the families of Sept.  11 victims in the audience during the hearing, saying, "your government failed you...  and I failed you."

"We tried hard but that doesn't matter because we failed and for that failure I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness."



The Bush guys will never apologize.  It’s not their fault.  Couldn’t be.  Clinton was the problem. 


And, well, as for apologies, that's nice to do and all, but I think Senator Frist, the majority leader had something to say about that on behalf of the Bush administration and the Republicans:


In his appearance before the 9-11 Commission, Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility.  In my view it was not an act of humility, but an act of supreme arrogance and manipulation.  Mr Clarke can and will answer for his own conduct but that is all.


Real men don’t apologize, for anything, and Clarke, it seems, won’t get away with trying to shame the Bush team into saying they were wrong about anything.  And everyone knows Bill Clinton is the cause of all this evil and all these dead folks.


And the Bush’s people, led by Andrew Card and that Rice woman, spent the day after all this saying Clarke was a disgruntled and bitter fellow out to make a buck on his book.  They didn’t ever say what Clarke was contending wasn’t true.  They just kept saying he was an unbalanced kind of negative person. 

Well, maybe he is.  So you cannot trust him?  I guess so.  Yeah, yeah. 

And then, Clarke was interviewed at Salon.com and said even odder things:


For one, the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government.  And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people.  When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset.  That's the first reason.  But the second reason is that I think they're trying to bait me -- and people who agree with me -- into talking about all the trivial little things that they are raising, rather than talking about the big issues in the book. 


Issues?  What issues? 

The Bush folks do have an issue.  It’s all Clinton’s fault?  Clarke’s view…


[Question:] The vice president commented that there was "no great success in dealing with terrorists" during the 1990s, when you were serving under President Clinton.  He asked, "What were they doing?"

It's possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn't know about the successes in the 1990s.  There were many.  The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States, through military intervention.  It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States, through covert action.  It stopped the al-Qaida attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia.  It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium.  It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S.  embassy in Albania.  And it began a lethal covert action program against al-Qaida; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaida.  Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn't notice. 


Ouch again.  The Bush people really don’t want to mess with this guy. 
One view from the Daily Kos, the blog Markos Moulitsas Zúniga runs…


It's tempting to overstate the significance of what many of us watched or heard this afternoon.  But it's hard to imagine anybody who followed Richard Clarke's testimony before the 9-11 commission not being moved by the man's clear and simple statements of what he says is the truth.  From his opening statement of remorse to the families of those who died in the 9-11 attacks, to his blunt descriptions of the Bush administration's neglect of counter-terrorism, to his brilliant demolition of John Lehman's crassly partisan attempt to tar him as a partisan, Clarke's performance was a powerful combination of understatement and bravura. 

Reading and listening to the reactions people have had to Clarke's book, his appearances in the media, and now to his stunning testimony before the 9-11 panel, it appears that we may have reached a turning point.  Richard Clarke is easily believed and not easily dismissed.  Karl Rove wasted his ammunition on earlier whistle blowers like John Dilulio and Paul O'Neil, who, compared to Clarke, are minor leaguers.  Despite the assists of hacks like Lehman and the slimeballs at Fox News, this whistleblower will be hard to marginalize and ignore.  The political heart of the Bush presidency is counter-terrorism, and their former counter-terrorism expert may have just ripped out their heart. 

Richard Clarke is a hawk, appears to have been a Republican, and most balanced summaries of his career show him to have been a bit of a loose cannon too smitten by covert actions and insufficiently respectful of civil liberties.  But he's the type of knowledgeable, dogged, and passionate analyst on whom every successful administration must rely for honest and non-ideological appraisals and advice.  However, this administration doesn't value analysts, it values acolytes.  Thus, it's not surprising this outraged insider has so effectively exposed the rank incompetence and rotten dishonesty at the center of the Bush administration. 

Furthermore, this administration doesn't respect people who aren't cynical idolaters of power like themselves; it's to be expected that they wouldn't heed the advice of someone whose character and motivations are so different from their own.  The leaders of the Bush administration wouldn't listen to Richard Clarke because, as he proved today, he is fundamentally what they will never be.  Richard Clarke is a mensch, and Richard Clarke is a patriot. 


The Yiddish word works here.  A mensch will apologize when he’s made a mistake. 

I not sure Bush, or many Texans, know that word.  Or get the concept.  And heck, when you’re president you don’t owe anyone apologies, or even explanations, or anything.  "I'm the President of the United States," Bush told a reporter last year.  "I don't feel like I have to explain myself to anybody."

Well, I guess that’s so. 

Is Bush in trouble now?  No, he can still declare marshal law and cancel the election, and proclaim himself President-for-Life.  He’d have the army behind him - and at least half of the American people, who want to be safe from the bad guys, whoever they might vaguely be.  It could work.  Most people would see this as easier and more convenient than all this political stuff.  They could just get on with their lives. 

Things are coming to a head.  It is possible. 

No.  Not a chance.  Really.  If Kerry is not assassinated by some enthusiastic Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh fan, which is of course possible given how they and their like stir the pot, we will have an election, and Bush will probably win, fair and square – just like last time. 


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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