Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Clinton fights back

Clinton fights back
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Something shocking and unusual happened recently on “FOX News Sunday.” A prominent Democrat took issue with host Chris Wallace’s cheap-shot interview techniques, made him look foolish and completely out of his depth, and left him whining about his subject’s bad manners. Unfortunately, that prominent Democrat was former President Bill Clinton, whose political career is history. Even so, after a week most Democratic officeholders spent huddled under their desks like schoolchildren in a 1960s nuclear bomb drill, seemingly fearful of challenging the Bush administration’s disgraceful advocacy of torture, it was bracing to see at least one Democrat speak his mind. Instructive, too. Apparently, Clinton’s had enough of right-wingers’ attempts to hoodwink voters by waving Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress all over again.

Two weeks ago, it was ABC’s fictive docudrama, “The Path to 9/11,” combining imaginary events with make-believe dialogue to make Clinton look soft on al-Qa’ida and George W. Bush full of manly resolve. History records something else: that it was Clinton who tried to kill or capture the al-Qa’ida leader and Bush who downgraded terrorism from a Category 4 threat to the equivalent of a tropical depression, waved off a presidential briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” with a flippant remark about the CIA’s need to “cover [its] ass,” then went fishing.

But let’s go to the tape. Clinton clearly anticipated Wallace’s tactics and took him head-on. Citing viewer e-mails, Wallace asked, “Why didn’t you do more to put [Osama] bin Laden and al-Qa’ida out of business when you were president ? There’s a new book out [by Lawrence Wright] called ‘The Looming Tower,’ and it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, bin Laden said, ‘I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of U.S. troops.’”

Clinton immediately challenged the context of the question, putting Wallace on the defensive and keeping him there. After all, exactly why are we talking about something bin Laden reportedly said 13 years ago when he remains at large five years after 9/11? Clinton said the ABC docudrama “directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report.”

“All the conservative Republicans, who now say I didn’t do enough, [then] claimed that I was too obsessed with bin Laden,” Clinton said. “All of President Bush’s neocons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no eetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office.”

Then Clinton did something Bush rarely does when journalists irk him. He answered the question. See, for months, GOP propagandists have argued that Clinton emboldened Muslim terrorists by withdrawing after rebels dragged the bodies of U.S. soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu.

“There is not a living soul in the world,” Clinton pointed out, “who thought that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even knew al-Qa’ida was a growing concern in October of ’ 93.... All the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day.”

If anything, he went too easy on his antagonists. Indeed, Clinton, who inherited what began as a humanitarian mission in Somalia from the first President Bush, insisted upon holding fast for six months until an orderly transfer to U.N. peacekeepers could be arranged. He did it despite repeated calls from republicans like Sens. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas for immediate retreat. Conservatives argued that Somalia was not in the national interest. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., predicted that Congress would withdraw funding.

Glenn Greenwald provides a selection of contemporaneous GOP statements about Somalia on his “Unclaimed Territory” Web site. They make interesting reading. So does an October 1993 speech by Clinton agreeing with Gen. Colin Powell that it would be a terrible mistake to, yes, “cut and run” from Somali warlords. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., argued against what he called Republicans’ “extraordinary sense of panic.”

Clinton said he regretted his failure to get bin Laden. But he also reminded Wallace that, contrary to the current GOP disinformation campaign, “people on my political right who say I didn’t do enough spent the whole time I was president saying... that [it] was ‘wag the dog’ when [we] tried to kill him.”

Indeed they did. Clinton’s 1998 cruise missile attack on an al-Qa’ida training camp in Afghanistan set off a torrent of abuse by Republicans who accused him of trying to divert their party’s laser-like attention from the presidential zipper to the terrorist threat. None of which excuses Clinton’s own spectacular indiscipline, which made it easy for them. What the FOX News episode did show, however, is how badly Democrats need to imitate Clinton, get out from under their desks, quit letting the GOP noise machine dictate the terms of the debate and force the Bush administration to confront its own epic failures.


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