Man Without Qualities

Friday, March 26, 2004

Daschle Descending V: Serving Up Richard Clarke's Baloney Really, Really Thin In South Dakota

A prior post noted that much of the usual Washington crowd has had a say on Richard Clarke's performance - with Tom Daschle being a very large exception, even though Senator Daschle was very active in the Democrat's prior "what-did-the-President-know-and-when-did-he-know-it" effort.

Now Senator Daschle has crept out of his election year bunker - but just a bit. Yesterday he criticized the Administration's counter to Mr. Clarke's testimony, saying that instead of "dealing with it factually, they've [the Administration] launched a shrill attack to destroy Mr. Clarke's credibility." As the New York Times reports:

The Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, called on the White House to cease "character attacks'' on Richard A. Clarke, the former senior Bush aide who disparaged Mr. Bush's handling of the Qaeda threat in his testimony before the commission and in a new book. "I have a simple request for the president today: Please ask the people around you to stop the character attacks they are waging against Richard Clarke,'' Mr. Daschle said. "Ask them to stop their attempts to conceal information and confuse facts. Ask them to stop the long effort that has made the 9/11 commission's work more difficult than it should be.''

Yes, the Administration has taken the approach that what Mr. Clarke is saying is not true or factually correct, and that his financial interest in selling books and his ties to the Kerry campaign are fairly obvious reasons to discount his credibility as a witness. And, for example, the release of footage of a background session one gave a year or so ago that squarely contradicts one's current sworn statements and book will have a certain nasty erosive effect on the public's assessment of one's character and value as a witness. On the other hand, Mr. Clarke brings nothing new to the discussion except as a witness - since his criticisms are all warmed-over stuff first served months ago, including by Senator Daschle, but with few takers.

Relatively speaking, South Dakota had even fewer takers of the old stuff than the country as a whole. Hence, many of Senator Daschle's re-election problems. His statements yesterday seem an effort by Tom Daschle as $3,000-suit-beltway-sharpie to comply with his Senate Democratic leadership role without infuriating the South Dakota constituency of just-plain-Tom who's having a lot of trouble running for re-election. One imagines that his opponent, Mr. Thune, will find some way to point that out.


STILL MORE: As the election gets nearer and more troubling, Senator Daschle is serving up other thinly sliced baloney, too. In this case he's voting against a bill (the "Laci Peterson Bill") before voting for it. He did the same thing on the gun manufacturer immunity bill. Isn't that cute? Just like John Kerry, who is finding out that somehow that strategy doesn't work as well in a national political race. But it doesn't work every time, even in the Senate. But old habits are hard to change.

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