Man Without Qualities

Friday, December 06, 2002

How Many Personalities Can Fit Into Bill Clinton's Body At One Time?

Bill Clinton on September 27, 2002:

"[President Saddam Hussein's] got a very dangerous (weapons) program. We need to eliminate it," Clinton said on ABC's Good Morning America. ... "I think we ought to go to the United Nations. I think we ought to get a tough resolution which basically says we'll take Saddam Hussein up on his commitment to free and unfettered inspections. ... If he doesn't comply" Clinton said, a U.N. resolution should make clear that the international community "is authorized to use force. ... I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. That is, I think we can turn up the heat on Iraq and retain our focus on terror. ... Let's don't relax our efforts. Let's intensify our efforts ... They (al-Qaeda terrorists) still have plans to target Americans within the United states and elsewhere and I think we should all support the administration and whatever has to be done to eradicate this network."

Bill Clinton on December 3, 2002:

What should the positions be? First, on national security, the facts are that the majority of the Democrats have been clear and virtually unanimous in the fight against terror, and in supporting defense increases. The majority of us stood up and said, yes, we do have to have unlimited and unambiguous inspections in Iraq and the ability to use force, if necessary, if those inspections and the mandate of the UN are not honored. That's what we wanted all along, exactly what has been done. We need to make that clear. We now have a homeland security department and that's fine. It'll probably do more good than harm.

What should our security position be? First of all, we ought to listen to Senator Graham. Al Qaeda should be our top priority, Iraq is important but the terrorist network is more urgent in terms of its threat to our immediate security ....

The inconsistency between the September and December Bill Clintons is not all. The December President Clinton also thinks that the Democratic Party should be "clear" that "we do have to have unlimited and unambiguous inspections in Iraq and the ability to use force, if necessary" and that Democrats "[f]irst of all... ought to listen to Senator Graham."

But Senator Bob Graham, D-Florida, is the leader of the Senate Democrats opposing the Administration on Iraq. Senator Graham was one of 23 Democratic Senators who voted against the resolution granting President Bush the power to invade Iraq. The Miami Herald reported that Senator Graham attempted to stop the Iraq resolution inpart by telling "his colleagues that ''blood is going to be on your hands' if action is not taken to foil terrorist attacks in America should the United States invade Iraq." Another report noted: "Hussein may have to be taken out at some point, Graham has said repeatedly, but now is not the time." The Senator insisted that "he voted against giving President Bush support for attacking Iraq because Middle Eastern and Central Asian terrorist organization pose a more immediate threat to the United States."Then, after the Administration pushed its resolution through the United Nations, Senator Graham said he was "pleased" because if "Saddam Hussein... rejects this international call, he will be bringing down on his country and his regime the full force of U.S. military power." The very same U.S. military power whose use the Senator had voted against giving to the President. Senator Graham also thinks that the United States should attend to North Korea and many other malfeasants before militarilly addressing Iraq.

And, although the former President also said that Democrats should tout their support for the Homeland Security Act, Senator Graham appears to have been one of the Democratic Senators seeking to stop that Act from reaching President Bush unless partisan questions regarding "how the employees will be paid and what benefits they will receive" were resolved to Senator Graham's satisfaction.

There is a scene in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation and Empire" series where the image of Harry Seldon appears on schedule to give a progress report - and the panic that results when everyone in the room realizes that Seldon didn't have a clue that the threatening crisis would occur. The DLC meeting at which Mr. Clinton spoke must have felt a bit like that.

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