Richard Clarke, former presidential aide on terrorism to Presidents Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Reagan, made quite a splash in the blogosphere with his appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes” last night to discuss his new book, Against All Enemies. In it, Clarke charges that the Bush administration neglected the threat of terrorism prior to 9/11, and afterwards focused too heavily on a supposed Al-Qaeda-Iraq connection.
Billmon takes a long look at Clarke’s past and concludes, “[M]y observations about Clarke’s track record aren’t intended to slam his credibility — even if his reputation as a gifted counter-terrorism guru is a little exaggerated. Rather, I wanted to highlight the fact that Clarke’s attack on Bush (and by extension, on the neocons) appears to be totally at odds with his ideological sympathies — and, probably, with his old partisan loyalties as well.”
Does this credibility argument fly with National Review’s Jonah Goldberg? At first, yes: “[It] seems to me that Clarke cannot simply be dismissed as a jerk with an agenda.” However, Goldberg goes on to write, “That said, that doesn’t mean we have to buy everything Clarke says without skepticism.” Goldberg continues to attack Clarke’s credibility, “But, it strikes me as a shocking example of blame-dodging for the guy who ran Bill Clinton’s anti-terrorism agency to be making these charges. After all, if there’s one guy more completely culpable for the growth of al Qaeda over the last decade you’d think it would be Clarke.”
The newly anointed Political Animal, Kevin Drum, discusses how the Bush administration might attack Clarke’s credibility. The Animal suggests one line of attack could backfire: “Perhaps they’ll whisper that he’s bitter over being demoted? I guess they might try it, but it will be a mighty quiet whisper. After all, they really don’t want to remind people that counterterrorism was a cabinet level position under Clinton and was downgraded by Bush immediately upon taking office.”
As for the press, Atrios briefly critiques Lesley Stahl, who interviewed Clarke on last’s night’s “60 Minutes.” “I thought Stahl did okay. What I object to most is the perpetuation of the idea that even disagreeing with the president is somehow treasonous or disloyal. Stahl did flirt with this, but much less than most of the Heathers do these days.”
Finally, Josh Marshall weighs in with a caveat concerning all the speculation. Simply, “Clarke is yet to get the ‘treatment’ from the press. So we’ll see how his statements hold up.” Marshall then gives the press a little pep talk charging the corps to determine whose telling the truth (Clarke, the Bush administration, or both): “This is why we have a press whose job it is not simply to frame this as a potent he-said/she-said but to dig into the details and find out who isn’t leveling with us.”