Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Good Beat, Good to Dance To
On my way back home today after a couple of days on the road, I happened to dial in on Fresh Air, where Terry Gross was talking with former White House terrorism adviser Richard Clarke. Now, this guy's gotten more airtime in the last four days than his namesake, Dick "American Bandstand" Clark, got in 50 years, but due to the press of my work, I haven't watched or listened to much of it. But with 50 miles of interstate to traverse this afternoon, I decided to listen to the interview, and what I heard was shocking--although familiar at the same time.

Among the revelations: the Bush people were given several major national security concerns by Clinton's outgoing security team--chief among them the Al Qaeda threat and North Korea's nukes--but they chose to ignore them in favor of a distinctly Cold-War agenda involving Star Wars, Iraq, and relations with Russia. Time and again, the administration treated its preconceived notions like "received wisdom," to use Clarke's phrase, and sought only intelligence information that would confirm it. Only about 50 Americans died in terrorist attacks during Clinton's eight years in office, compared to several hundred during the Reagan years (the Beirut embassy bombing being the major attack) and Daddy Bush's term (the Lockerbie bombing its darkest moment), and Dubya's toll of over 3,000. Only Clinton responded to terror attacks militarily, by bombing terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and the Sudan--attacks that were dismissed by many Americans as being a "wag-the-dog" distraction from the impeachment circus. Clarke dismisses as "legend" the story that the Sudan was willing to deliver up Bin Laden to the U.S. but that the Clinton administration was unwilling to take him.

(Clinton does not escape Clarke's criticism--although his administration did more than either of his two predecessors to fight the likes of Osama Bin Laden, they didn't catch him, after all. But the mere fact that the 9/11 commission has seen fit to criticize Clinton and Bush means that in the right-wing echo chamber, 9/11 is entirely Clinton's fault.)

The furious attempts by the administration and its media supporters to discredit Clarke's book this week and his testimony today before the 9/11 commission looks to me like a classic "where there's smoke" situation. If you compare Clarke's version of events with what we know to be true from other sources, there's much more information existing that confirms Clarke than would confirm the Bush line that the whole damn thing is an utter fabrication. In short, this is serious stuff. Because there's a Republican majority in Congress, there will be no impeachment--but Clarke's presented enough goods to seal the deal. And the administration's ongoing obsession with repeating the same line over and over and over only makes them look more like they've been caught doing something they know is wrong. Ol' Dick Nixon, the greatest stonewaller of them all, would be proud--and compared to the current crowd's proficiency, Nixon's stonewalling ability is looking more second-rate every day.

The most disappointing revelation in the Clarke interview was his response to administration accusations that he's auditioning for a job in the Kerry administration. He told Terry Gross that if asked to serve, he would thank President Kerry (I like the ring of that) for the offer and decline it. Too bad. A 30-year veteran of public service with deep expertise in one of the most important issues facing our country, and with the courage to speak truth to power in an era when such courage is widely lacking, is somebody John Kerry can't afford to govern without.

The List: Let's start making a list of things that will definitely happen if Bush is reelected. We already know that Roe v. Wade will be done, gone, repealed. Now we can add the fact that Medicare will go broke in 15 years, according to its own trustees. Bush will do nothing to save it if he's reelected. One day after the news broke, Treasury Secretary John Snow started talking about saving it--but that's just window dressing. They want it gone, and if Bush is reelected, it will be--and people ought to know that before they vote in November.

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