March 2004
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Day March 23, 2004

The Idiocy Surrounding White House Attacks on Richard Clarke

Among many idiotic moments the administration has had lately, consider this. Over the last two days, the papers have been full of news snippets where “an anxious White House scrambled” to offer rebuttals to Richard Clarke’s criticisms. That quote is from the LA Times, but I’m sure you’ve seen similar quotes all over the place.

This is pretty ridiculous stuff. The White House knew the book was coming out, and when. Hell, I’ve had the thing pre-ordered on Amazon for months. But even more to the point, the White House had their hands on the manuscript for at least three months, since they had to review it prior to publication (which also shoots a hole in the notion that Clarke “timed” the publication to coincide with the start of the election season).

Thus, the Administration has known for months what Clarke’s book contained, and now they’re “scrambling” to respond? Did they think nobody was going to buy it? The fact that it was a “best-seller” on Amazon on the basis of pre-orders should have told them something, along with the fact that the first printing is selling out quickly and a new printing run is apparently on the way.

It’s harder and harder to escape the fact that the White House is “scrambling” and “anxious” because they’re between a rock and a hard place. Either Richard Clarke was “out of the loop” and they were deliberately underutilizing the most talented and experienced counter-terrorism expert to work in four administrations, or Clarke was “in the loop” before 9/11 and somebody doesn’t want to admit that they didn’t pay attention.

Regardless of which is the truth, neither makes the administration look good. At best, they’re less than competent, and at worst they’re chronic blatant liars. And the most interesting part is that they can’t come clean at this point. They’re deep enough that they can’t even do the right thing and say “yeah, we lied,” because then they’d have to explain why there’s been several years of lies on top of the original ones. Think back to childhood…one lie, yeah, you can apologize and move on. Lies to hide other lies, and you’re really in trouble…Their only hope now is to gut it out, keep lying, and just hope that only a small fraction of the population is paying attention.

Doesn’t seem like a winning strategy to me…especially if everyone keeps the heat on.

Daschle’s Statement on Bush Administration Character Assassination

If you haven’t seen Tom Daschle’s statement on the floor of the Senate, it was published in full today. Echoing sentiment among many outside the government, Daschle calls into question the Administration’s pattern of behavior in attacking those who tell the truth. Here’s the transcript, and I won’t repeat it in this post.

The pattern, however is clear. Here’s a partial list of those whom the administration has attacked (and in some cases materially damaged) after the individuals in question told what they believed to be the truth:

  • Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury (read Suskind’s book — O’Neill was asked to resign for constantly fighting what he saw as lies and incompetence)
  • Larry Lindsay, former economic advisor to the President (and Lindsay is even a supply-side ideologue!)
  • Gen. Eric Shinseki, former Army Chief of Staff (accelerated retirement after clashing with Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld on troop level requirements for Iraq — readers of Wesley Clark’s book on Kosovo will recognize the dynamic here)
  • Teresa Chambers, Chief of Police, National Park Service (suspended for disclosing budget problems to the public)
  • Elizabeth Blackburn, former member Coucil on Bioethics
  • Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame (Plame’s identity as a deep-cover CIA officer was outed to Novak after Wilson spoke out concerning the Niger uranium hoax)
  • Richard Foster, actuary for Dept. of Health and Human Services (was told he’d be fired for telling Congress the real cost of last’s year’s Medicare bill)
  • Richard Clarke, former lead counter-terrorism advisor

The attacks on Richard Clarke are merely the latest in a series of character attacks on individuals who disagree with the administration and have the temerity to say so publicly. Clarke has worked for four presidential administrations, is well-respected in his field, and the documentary evidence in support of his claims is voluminous and unimpeachable. Thus, the administration responds by attacking the man.

Daschle has taken a courageous stand today by concluding:

We shouldn’t fire or demean people for telling the truth. We shouldn’t reveal the names of law enforcement officials for political gain. And we shouldn’t try to destroy people who are out to make country safer.

I think the people around the President have crossed into dangerous territory. We are seeing abuses of power that cannot be tolerated.

The President needs to put a stop to it, right now. We need to get to the truth, and the President needs to help us do that.

Hurrah for Tom Daschle. I’m letting my Senators and Representatives know that I’d like to see them support Daschle’s statement publicly as well — this may be the only way to bring the light of day onto the attack tactics in use by a flailing Bush administration.