Bill Clinton was interviewed recently by Chris Wallace of FoxNews Sunday. Clinton goes off for what he feels is underhanded questioning. Watch the video first—available here.
The anger revolves around the allegations that Clinton while president did not do enough to combat al-Qaeda. The new book Looming Tower is mentioned as is the controversial ABC docu-drama aired a few weeks back.
One–Clinton just came (as he mentions) from an event to raise moneys for his Global Initiative Camapigns. The future, good he is trying to do. And I can see getting exasperated over questions about the past, re-hasing what is dead, staid.
Two–and thsi Clinton does not specifically mention but is behind all of this. Why the timing? The 9/11 report has been out, Richard Clarke’s book has been out for years, Peter Bergen’s two books on Osama have been out…. The answer, seems fairly obvious to me, are the upcoming midterm elections.
Karl Rove has used this startegy. He attacks his opponents STRENGTHS not weaknesses through randomly constructed and sanitized third-parties. Ann Richards’ ability to reach across aisles in Texas (she’s a lesbian); John Kerry’s war record (he was a traitor); and John McCain’s time as POW (he’s a little crazy) and his adopted Indian daughter (he’s got a black baby).
The Republicans know that if the Nov. election is nationalized they will go down in flames. Most likely losing both houses of Congress. They also know the Preisident is “radioactive” and that 2 term presidents’ party suffer historically in the 6th year of their term.
Rove however has been weakened by the Plame investigation, the negative turn of events in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the sense that there fundamentally is no policy with this Administration in the so-called War on Terror. Rove has never lost an election, but his time may be running out—I would never say never with this guy and America though.
But to the substance of the interview.
Wallace begins by asking why Clinton did not do enough on terrorism—Clinton’s pointed responses eventually get Wallace to ask “Did you feel you did enough in office?”
Wallace cites the withdrawal from Somalia in ’93, the African Embassy Bombings, and the Cole attack.
Clinton of course has reaosn to defend his policy, which he does but only up until a point.
It is true that bin Laden did claim that the American withdrawal from Somalia (Black Hawk Down) clued him [bin Laden] into the notion that America was a paper tiger.
1. Nobody knew bin Laden at that point. Bin Laden will find any piece of evidence he can to use in his propaganda war. This is pretty much a red herring in my book.
2. More importantly, Clinton was forced out of Somalia in large measure because of the Republican controlled Congress.
It is important to remember where the Republican party was in the aftermath of the devasting 92 election defeat of George HW Bush. At the 92 Republican Convention, Pat Bucahanan gave his (in)famous opening address (text here) where he declared there was a religious war, a cultural battle for the soul of America and that Bill Clinton was on the wrong side.
George H.W. Bush as an Episcopalian never won the trust of the evangelicals–even though he was easily more religious than the divorcee, Hollywood, pro-choice Reagan. He also faced an insurgency from Perot and the greatest candidate the Democrats have put possibly since Truman.
In the wake of that loss, the Republicans were becoming more aligned with social conservatism and diplomatic isolationism. Somalia came on the heels of the failure of the US intervention force in Haiti–another issue that cost Bush 41 his presidency.
We did not then nor have now the proper military-political nexus to do nation-building. Clinton is as to blame for that as is Bush 43. But for right-wing elements to insinuate that Clinton is solely to blame for the Somalia mess is abysmal–one of the key figures in calling for an even earlier withdrawal from the horn of Africa was Sen. Robert Dole, Clinton’s later Presidential Opponent.
Clinton mentions that Richard Clarke, the only man who has really ever understood the threat of al-Qaeda to this nation, did forge a comprehensive strategy to deal with AQ. Clinton put multiple hits out on bin Laden (as he mentions in the interview) and did one at least one occassion come close to a successful kill.
Unfortunately Clarke’s temperment was his own worst enemy it seems, particularly under Bush 43, in promoting his point of view—-he was only one of a very few who truly understood the threat posed by al-Qaeda.
During those same years, the other element of conservative foreign policy thought was the neoconservative wing. Clinton again correctly identifies them as forces that during the 90s were opposed to actions against AQ.
Because the neocons, particularly Paul Wolfowitz the real mastermind of the movement, were only interested in Syria, Iran, and most especially Iraq.
George W. Bush tried in his first adminstration to bring both both these conservative foreign policy wings together: realists and neocons. What united them was their policy of not following the Clinton interventionist model. Bush also tried of course to link police actions against al-Qaeda with regime change in the Middle East (a neocon principle).
That attempted union is fraying militarily and has lost support domestically.
So attack Clinton from whom Bush inherited the issues of Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and al-Qaeda.
Clinton did fail–as he admits in this interview. The bombing of the so-called chemical plant in Sudan after the Embassy bombings was pathetic. And his lack of an invasion of Afghanistan after the Cole Bombings was a mistake.
One he mentions and says that he needed support from the CIA which he did not receive. Also he would may not have received the Congressional (Republican) mandate necessary for such an action.
In other words, Clinton, the Republican congress, and President Bush have failed–each responsible in different ways–for the foreign policy failures of the last decade, particularly in regards to Salafi terrorism and failed states.