Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XV: Fast Forward With Another Berger Whopper

Although I did, it wasn't necessary to read the article to know which of Clinton aide's comments would be reported under the headline Aide: Clinton Approved Killing Bin Laden. It virtually had to be Sandy Berger, the same prevaricator who briefly surfaced to tender a bizarre assertion that the Clinton Administration had left an extensive "plan" to terminate al Qaida with the incoming Bushites. After making fools of TIME magazine and other naifs, Mr. Berger withdrew that assertion under oath before Congress. But now Mr. Berger is baaaaaaaack, in characteristic "say anything" mode, to squarely contradict George Tenet by asserting that Bill Clinton gave the CIA "every inch of authorization that it asked for" to carry out plans to kill Osama bin Laden.

Of course, Mr. Berger said nothing previously about any President Clinton's secret exception to the famous (and, to most of the left, sacred, post-Church commission) Ford presidential order barring assassination of foreign leaders, such as bin Laden. Mr. Berger was mute on the topic following 9-11 itself and its huge flare up of accusation of Clinton-administration intelligence failures. He said nothing about such an exception when he made his disgraced public claim that the Clintonites had left a "plan" to dispose of bin Laden or when President Bush expressly carved out a big exception to the Ford order. Nor has Bill Clinton made such an assertion, although he presumably consented to bin Laden being killed when Mr. Clinton had a few missiles launched at him at the height of the Lewinski scandal. In short, it looks like another Berger whopper.

All the signs are that this particular whopper will have a very short shelf-life. And that likely life span seems representative of the likely life span of the entire Democratic effort to re-write the history of 9-11, and in my opinion is indicative of why the Democratic strategy - including their reliance on the Richard Clarke performance - is most likely a very serious miscalculation. In short, it seems to me that the Democratic attempt to re-write the history of 9-11 will force all interested members of the public to reconstruct and review for themselves in fast-forward the history of this country's response to terrorism in recent years. That should mostly have the effect of reviving and focusing public recollections of, and respect for, the Bush administration and the President in particular. The dust kicked up by the efforts and testimony of Mr. Clarke and various Clinton administration functionaries - including the bizarre Sandy Berger - may take a little while to settle, but it will settle well before the election.

Already Democrats on the 9-11 Commission are having to contend with footage (helpfully provided by Fox News) of a previously non-public briefing by Mr. Clarke completely and essentially contradicting the most important to the assertions in his book and testimony. Does former Senator Kerrey understand how preposterous he sounds when he responds to this footage with a protest that it should have been kept from the public? Already Mr. Clarke's preposterous assertions that Ms. Rice was unaware of even the meaning of "al Qaida" or that she failed to grasp the need to address al Qaida have been conclusively demonstrated as false simply by her many public statements to the contrary and Mr. Clarke's own previously unreleased e-mail to her. Then there is the Clarke resignation letter praising the President's actions against terrorism. Already George Tenet has contradicted Mr. Clarke. All signs point to the current Democratic efforts as having a half life about as long as their prior, disastrous "what-did-the-President-know-and-when-did-he-know-it" effort.

My guess is that net result of the 9-11 Commission will be no particular shift in the public perception of Mr. Bush's handling of the war on terror, but with a considerably increased focus of the presidential campaign on national security and the war on terrorism.

Nothing could be worse for John Kerry's presidential prospects than that.

John Kerry is not alone. Much of the usual Washington crowd has paraded across the nation's television screens on this matter - with one, very large exception: Tom Daschle. Senator Daschle was very active in the Democrat's prior "what-did-the-President-know-and-when-did-he-know-it" effort, but he has been curiously quiet over the last few days. Perhaps Senator Daschle is being quiet because his prior efforts seem to be a major reason why he has moved very close to not being re-elected.

Is that good news for Democrats generally?

Dick Morris is generally correct in predicting a likely Bush blow-out - except he unsurprisingly gives too much credit to the campaign professionals and political ads. I believe the main reason for John Kerry's fall in the polls is John Kerry - and I think the current September 11 dust-up threatens to have the larger Congressional Democratic Party exposed to the same risk. Kausfiles' concern over the latest Rassmussen Poll showing Kerry with a slight lead is unwarranted. The later Quinnipiac Poll finds:

President Bush leads Democrat John Kerry 46 ? 40 percent among all voters, with 6 percent for independent candidate Ralph Nader. ... With Nader out of the race, Bush leads Kerry 46 ? 43 percent among all voters ....

MORE: Why Richard Clarke Is Good For Bush.

UPDATE: Mr. Clarke's reaction to questions about his 2002 briefing footage of which has now been released, as mentioned above is interesting:

Asked at the commission hearing Wednesday whether he intended to mislead journalists and their readers in 2002, Clarke said no.

"When you are special assistant to the president and you're asked to explain something that is potentially embarrassing to the administration, because the administration didn't do enough or didn't do it in a timely manner and is taking political heat for it, as was the case there, you have a choice," he said. One "choice that one has is to put the best face you can for the administration on the facts as they were, and that is what I did."

In other words, Mr. Clarke candidly admits that he lies - shifts the very essence of what he says to the public - to accord with his personal position and agenda at the moment of the telling. He even suggests that he considers that kind of lying (and that's exactly what it is) to be routine when you are special assistant to the president and you're asked to explain something that is potentially embarrassing to the administration. Richard Clarke's admission of casual, situation-driven prevarication, his book and his performance before this Commission, compared with his prior statements and records of his history, make him seem increasingly like Jayson Blair, the notorious New York Times liar. Indeed, much of Jack Shafer's review of Mr. Blair's opus could apply equally well to Mr. Clarke's opus with only minor adjustments for context:

Should you believe anything written by a serial liar? ... For a liar, Blair begins his book in honest fashion...: ''I told more than my share of lies and became as adept as anyone at getting away with it unquestioned and unscathed.'' ... But contrition is a dish served not at all in this memoir. From the heights of confession, Blair rappels down Mount Excuse, blaming everybody but himself for his offenses. ... Other villains appear, disappear and reappear like changing weather. ... He describes some of his Times colleagues as corrupt hacks and fabricators and asks, in so many words, is he much worse than they are? But the only Times reporter whose ethics Blair directly criticizes is Rick Bragg, the former Times star who was disciplined by the paper for claiming a solo dateline he didn't deserve. (So much for burning his masters' house down.) ... Other times, the source of Blair's troubles is found in whatever heartless Times editor he thinks is riding him ... And on a few occasions, Blair, an African-American, plays the race card ... Far from solving the Jayson Blair enigma, this sloppy, padded and dishonest work only adds to his growing word count of lies.

Richard Clarke is not African-American, although the woman he is attempting to diminish is. What card like that race card could Mr. Clarke still try to play?

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