Protesting Too Much

In the intermediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the country rallied together realizing that fighting amongst ourselves would be counterproductive. Even before any investigations to determine the history of what had happened in the lead up to the attacks, it could have easily been foreseen that in the perspective of hindsight there would have been many opportunities to have thwarted the attacks. President George W. Bush’s Administration had eight short months to anticipate an attack. The Administration of President Bill Clinton had eight years. There must have been many mistakes made by both administrations.

It is likely that given a pre-9/11 perspective, if the administrations of Clinton and Bush had been reversed in sequence, 9/11 would not have been averted. The Clinton Administration considered the threat of terrorism a criminal enforcement problem, not an international conflict. It is not clear that Bush would have thought differently before 9/11.

Up until now, in the interest of comity, neither president had dissipated national unity by focusing on a blame game. President Clinton broke this tacit arrangement this Sunday in an angry interview on Fox News Sunday. “They had eight months to try [to get Bin Laden]. They did not try. I tried, ” he boasted.

A dispassionate examination of the 9/11-Commission Report or Richard Clarke’s book cited by Clinton in the interview does not support the picture painted by Clinton of a directed president doing everything in his power to get Bin Laden.

It is unclear if Bill Clinton was posing faux anger in the interview to energize Democrats in anticipation of the mid-term election. William Kristol of the Weekly Standard lays out a possible Clinton strategy for such an outburst. Chris Wallace, who conducted the interview, reports that Clinton walked away angry and chewed out subordinates suggestive of authentic anger. Perhaps, Clinton was still smarting from the docu-drama The Path to 9/11 that painted the Clinton Administration in a negative light.

As usual Clinton played a little fast and loose with the truth, but not any more than we have come to expect from Clinton spin. There was no “comprehensive anti-terror strategy” bequeathed to the Bush Administration as he asserted. Richard Clarke, Clinton’s source of all wisdom, claimed that, “There was no plan on al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration…[a] plan, strategy — there was no, nothing new.” In fact in 2001, Clarke said, the Bush Administration “changed the [Clinton] strategy from one of rollback [of] al Qaeda over five years to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline.”

Clinton may get angry from many causes, but it is true that when he is caught red-handed, a la the Monica Lewinsky affair, he has a tendency to get livid and self righteous. Perhaps it is my Conservative ear but I heard a little of the finger-wagging “I never sex with that woman” as he leaned over and harangued at Wallace, “What did I do? What did I do? I worked hard to try to kill him [Osama bin Laden]…”

It is common to be most stung by criticism when it hits close to home. Perhaps Clinton feels a little guilty that not enough was done to pursue Osama Bin Laden during his administration. The case can be made that it would have been difficult for anyone to do more, though there is always room for critical self-examination. However, in his congenitally narcissistic manner Clinton believes this is a question about him and his legacy. It is more important for the country to eschew self-blame and focus moral liability on terrorists, but Clinton insists on polishing his own reputation. It is ironic that Clinton’s outburst in desperate service of his legacy will continue to cement the vision of Clinton as an unserious person.

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