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Smearing Clarke

Aaron Larson
05:45 PM ET (US)
Aaron LarsonPerson was signed in when posted
09:29 AM ET (US)
Today, Jim Hoagland takes on Clarke in a manner that is initially resonant. Clarke's book and testimony recount many failures, but those failures are predominantly the failures of others to communicate key information, or their failures to listen to Clarke, and not failures by Clarke himself. But to the extent that Clarke's testimony can be viewed as self-serving, it nonetheless resonates because it seems to be the least self-serving insider account that we have heard to date.

Hoagland criticizes Clarke for testifying about "what-ifs" and "if-onlys" - as if there is an alternative. The panelists were asking him questions about how 9/11 might have been prevented, or how well-documented communications failures might have been avoided. While it is possible, to the Bush Administration's consternation, to also testify about what actually happened, there is an enormous focus in the hearings on how the attacks might have been prevented. There's no way to answer such inquiries save for in the hypothetical. Hoagland thinks that some of the hypotheticals are unrealistic? Certainly - which, no doubt, is why history played out as it did. And that, Mr. Hoagland, is the point.
Aaron LarsonPerson was signed in when posted
02:09 PM ET (US)
Clarke has provided some clarification in relation to the difference in tone between his former and present testimony:
John F. Lehman, a Republican member of the 9/11 commission, put it bluntly to former counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke when he testified publicly last week: Why did his earlier, private testimony to the commission not include the harsh criticism leveled at President Bush in his book?

"There's a very good reason for that," Clarke replied. "In the 15 hours of testimony, no one asked me what I thought about the president's invasion of Iraq. And the reason I am strident in my criticism of the president of the United States is because by invading Iraq . . . the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism."
Edited 03-28-2004 09:18 AM
11:05 AM ET (US)
The happiest man in Washington right now is Ari Fleischer.

I thought it was brilliant that Clarke attacked intelligence failure overall, not merely the Bush administration's failing. It's rather hard to credibly paint a man as partisan when he's slamming Clinton too.
Aaron LarsonPerson was signed in when posted
10:28 AM ET (US)
Is this the new Republican tack? "Now that it appears the 9/11 commission will hurt our reelection bid, it seems obvious that we can't learn anything from history, so why are we even trying?"

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