Tuesday, October 03, 2006


You don’t need to be a particularly big fan of Bill Clinton to acknowledge the obvious: he was far more deeply concerned about international terrorism than George W. Bush.

Yet, Mark Hyman is unable to do this. Commenting on the Clinton interview on FOX News in which the former president embarrassed an unprepared Chris Wallace, Hyman claims Clinton “ignored” or “labeled as criminal acts” numerous acts of terrorism.

The “ignored” part is balderdash. As for criminal acts, yes, he labeled terrorist attacks criminal acts because that’s what they were. He also made unprecedented steps to creating a comprehensive national policy to stop terrorism and actually tried to kill bin Laden (over the protests of the Republicans).

A book could be written (and in fact has been, by Richard Clark) detailing the ways Clinton dealt with the issue of terrorism generally and al Qaeda specifically, and comparing it to the sorry Bush record, but here are just a handful of relevant comparisons and contrasts:

When the Clinton received a PDB saying al Qaeda was planning on hijacking American airplanes in 1998, meetings were held, security levels were raised, and arrests were made.
When the Bush got a PDB saying that al Qaeda was planning on hijacking American airplanes in the summer of 2001, he did exactly nothing.

The Clinton administration created the first ever to create an anti-terrorism task force.
The Bush administration never held a meeting on terrorism until after 9/11.

According to Richard Clark, when Clinton was told about possible al Qaeda plots, he ramped up efforts to take out bin Laden.
When Bush was told in the summer of 2001 that there were ominous signs of an imminent al Qaeda attack, he told the CIA agent briefing him, “
Okay, you’ve covered your ass, now.”

After the “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993, Republicans immediately wanted to cut and run from Somalia, a country to which bin Laden had actual ties.
In 2006, Republicans accuse even combat veterans of wanting to cut and run when they have the temerity to suggest we might want to disengage from Iraq, a country that bin Laden never set foot in and which had no ties to al Qaeda.

In the 1990s, conservatives attacked Clinton for being “obsessed” with bin Laden and for “wagging the dog” when he tried to kill him.
In 2006, these same conservatives claim Clinton didn’t care about terrorism and did nothing to go after bin Laden.

Clinton worked closely with Richard Clark, the leading expert on terrorism, on plans to take out bin Laden and to stop al Qaeda.
Bush demoted Clark.

When Bush took office,
Richard Clark wrote a memo to Condi Rice telling her about the danger posed by al Qaeda and presented her with a plan for dealing with the threat.
Rice ignored the memo, claimed not to have received a plan,
blew off CIA warnings in July of 2001 of a possible al Qaeda attack, and called the PDB warning of an imminent al Qaeda attack “a historic document.”

Clinton actively planned to kill bin Laden to the point of being charged with obsession.
Bush cut and run from Tora Bora, letting bin Laden get away *after* the 9/11 attacks and saying bin Laden was wanted “dead or alive.” He subsequently said that he “doesn’t think about him that much.”

But the most damning words, both for the Bush administration and for Hyman, come from Richard Clark (whom Hyman cites in his own editorial), a man who served both Clinton and Bush. I apologize for the lengthy quotations, but they’re worth it.

From Clark’s sworn testimony for the 9/11 Commission:

At the senior policy levels in the Clinton Administration, there was an acute
understanding of the terrorist threat, particularly al Qida. That understanding
resulted in a vigorous program to counter al Qida including lethal covert
action, but it did not include a willingness to resume bombing of Afghanistan.
Events in the Balkans, Iraq, the Peace Process, and domestic politics occurring
at the same time as the anti-terrorism effort played a role.
The Bush
Administration saw terrorism policy as important but not urgent, prior to 9-11.
The difficulty in obtaining the first Cabinet level (Principals) policy meeting
on terrorism and the limited Principals' involvement sent unfortunate signals to
the bureaucracy about the Administration's attitude toward the al Qida

And from an interview with The Guardian:

JB: Condoleezza Rice wrote today in response to your book - that the Bush
administration did have a strategy for eliminating al-Qaida and that the
administration worked on it in the spring and summer of 2001? Is that true?
RC: We developed that strategy in the last several
months of the Clinton administration and it was basically an update on that
strategy. We briefed Condi on that strategy. The point is that it was done
before they came to office and she never held a meeting on it. It was done
before she asked for it.
JB: What about the claim
that the administration did work hard on the issue?
RC: Its not true. I asked - on January 24 in writing
to Condi - urgently for a meeting on cabinet level - the principal's committee -
to review the plan and I was told I can't have that. It had to go to the
deputies. They had a principals meeting on September 4. Contrast that with the
principal's meeting on Iraq, on February 1. So what was urgent for them was
Iraq. Al-Qaida was not important to them.
Contrast December '99 with June
and July and August 2001. In December '99 we get similar kinds of evidence that
al-Qaida was planning a similar kind of attack. President Clinton asks the
national security advisor to hold daily meetings with attorney-general, the CIA,
FBI. They go back to their departments from the White House and shake the
departments out to the field offices to find out everything they can find. It
becomes the number one priority of those agencies. When the head of the FBI and
CIA have to go to the White House every day, things happen and by the way, we
prevented the attack. Contrast that with June, July, August 2001 when the
president is being briefed virtually every day in his morning intelligence
briefing that something is about to happen, and he never chairs a meeting and he
never asks Condi rice to chair a meeting about what we're doing about stopping
the attacks. She didn't hold one meeting during all those three months. Now, it
turns out that buried in the FBI and CIA, there was information about two of
these al-Qaida terrorists who turned out to be hijackers [Khalid Almidhar and
Nawaf Alhazmi]. We didn't know that. The leadership of the FBI didn't know that,
but if the leadership had to report on a daily basis to the White House, he
would have shaken the trees and he would have found out those two guys were
there. We would have put their pictures on the front page of every newspaper and
we probably would have caught them. Now would that have stopped 9/11? I don't
know. It would have stopped those two guys, and knowing the FBI the way they can
take a thread and pull on it, they would probably have found others.

Oh, and one more contrast:

Clinton was honest enough to say that he failed to get bin Laden.
Bush can’t think of anything he’d do differently.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 4.76


At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Very nice post. Thanks for providing that Clinton/McFlightsuit comparison. One needn't get into intangibles to see that Bush was AWOL (again).

Too bad that the public is so poorly informed. So please keep up the posts.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Bradley said...


Fantastic work, as always.

I find it somewhat heartening to see Mark Hyman and his ilk struggling to present President Clinton's response to Chris Wallace's (admittedly subtle) attack as somehow over-the-top in its defensiveness. The video's out there-- hell, FOX News viewers have already seen it. Clinton didn't lose his cool. He didn't turn red. He didn't raise his voice. Was he angry? You bet. Who wouldn't be? But he was entirely reasonable as, point-by-point, he defended his record AND called Wallace (and by extension, Hyman, O'Reilly, Hannity, Carlson, Scarborough, et al) out on the right-wing media's disinformation campaign.

I hope that Clinton's rhetorical triumph over Chris Wallace signals a new trend in our country's political conversation; it would be nice to see more Democrats stand up and passionately argue for more sensible, progressive policies.

At 5:02 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Thanks for the nice words.

You're absolutely right about the whole "purple faced rage" meme that Hyman and his ilk are trying to perpetuate. Focus on the style (and a ridiculous caricature of the style, for that matter) rather than the substance.

I mean, what other emotion should you feel when presented with falsehoods about yourself, particuarly when the subtext is that you somehow were responsible for the deaths of nearly 3000 people? Anger is just about the only appropriate reaction there is. And as you point out, it was controlled anger, used in the service of laying out a devastating counter argument.

I think it's about time for some mad Democrats. Not Zell Miller mad, but I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-take-it-anymore mad. Whatever their intellectual and political abilities might be, presidential nominees like Mondale, Dukakis, and Kerry come across as bloodless. Whatever one might think of Howard Dean, his willingness to get pissed off about things that *should* piss people off was refreshing.

Anger isn't necessarily illogical. Sometimes, it's the only logical (and moral)response there is.


At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


How does one fight the Republican Machine when it is based upon anger and self-interest? Negative campaigning -- whether in a political contest or in calling Democrats the "America Haters" -- works, I believe, because it excites the most primal instincts in man. The "being tough" stance works for similar reasons. So, by supporting democratic principles, a transparent government, and basic fairness, the Repubs can always crank up the negative machine and neutralize their opponent.

I worry about our society. In my lifetime, public discourse and behavior has gotten cruder and cruder. Certainly the Republican hypocracy is revealed, but the nation seems not to care.

What pulls us out of this mess?

At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Bradley said...

Ted, you're right about anger being "the only logical (and moral) response" at times. I mean, can you imagine what this country would be like if people hadn't gotten angry over segregation? Women being regarded as property? Slavery? In fact, the country wouldn't even exist if people hadn't been pissed off over things like taxation without representation. Yet people like Hyman and O'Reilly continue to use the phrase "angry left" as an epithet-- as if anger is evidence of some sort of character deficiency.

Some of my students were telling me about Elie Wiesel's appearance on Oprah Winfrey a few months ago. I didn't see it myself, and I can't seem to find a transcript or video of it through a quick Google search, but as I understand it Oprah asked him how he could live through all he'd lived through and not be angry. He replied that he was angry-- very angry, in fact. But that he's not hateful. That's an important distinction to make, I think.

Anger motivates us to try to redress grievances, fight injustice, and right wrongs. Anger pushes us to create a culture where people can be treated with dignity and equality. All good things, it seems to me, come from anger about that which is bad.

Hatred, on the other hand, leads to ideas like building a fence along the Mexican border. It leads to racism, nationalism, and fascism. It leads to homophobia, censorship, torture, terrorism, and war. It leads to voting for George W. Bush and supporting his destructive, reprehensible policies even as all of the experts agree that they're going to come around and hurt us in the long run.

So I'll proudly be a member of the Angry Left, and let Mark Hyman and his army of like-minded talking heads in the media bask in being members of the Hateful Right. They may enjoy great power at the moment, but I think I'd rather be able to sleep at night and look myself in the mirror.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey guys,
I'm beginning to draw parallels between Hyman, Limbaugh, Boortz and the rest of their ilk on the talking-head right, with a new phenomenon that is finding fertile ground on which to grow with a segment of our adolescent population.
It's called "Bum Hunting", and it involves groups of teens hunting down defenseless homeless people and assaulting and beating them, sometimes to death, while video recording the attack for sale or for viewing later.
Since the "left" is all but homeless as far as the mainstream media is concerned, we make an easy target for the gutless, spineless cowards like Hyman and the rest of his gang.
It's no more than a televised drive-by shooting of unarmed war veterans, that Hyman and his buddies could never summon up the courage to engage in a fair fight.
Thanks guys, and keep bustin' Hyman.
Mike B. in SC

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK people,
I don't do this very often, but I am forwarding the link to this video to everyone.
This is an absolute MUST SEE music video from "The Robert Cray Band" that brings some reality to this illegal, immoral war and occupation of Iraq, and it WILL touch your heart!
If you have high-speed internet access it will load fairly quickly, but if you are using dial up, it will take much longer. It is a hi-res video and hi-fi sound, but I promise you that it will be worth the time spent loading it.
If you have dial-up, start the load before you go to bed or before you sit down to watch some TV and come back later and watch it. Then please, share the link widely with you family and friends.

Here is the link -

Mike B. in SC

At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is somewhat off-topic, but has anyone here read George Will's latest Newsweek column?

I have some amount of respect for Mr. Will (he is willing to criticize the Righties, unlike all the Bush Toadies), but his latest column is poorly informed and reveals a strong bias for the supposed First Amendment right of "commercial free speech".

I'm assuming most of y'all know about "commercial free speech": the notion that a broadcaster has more rights to free speech than does any joe-six-pack citizen. Thus, it's perfectly okay, by this argument, for Sinclair to broadcast personal attacks, downright lies, and propaganda without granting the public ANY right to state opposing opinions.

Such is the nature of free speech under the Republican One Party rule: If you want free speech, buy a broadcast station, otherwise, as Bill O'Reilly eloquently states it, SHUT UP.

I urge all to look at Will's miscarriage of logic at:


Mr. Will makes multiple errors. First, he simply assumes that, under the First Amendment, corporate broadasters have additional free speech rights under poor old First Amendment.

Second, he erroneously states that the Fairness Doctrine (which ruled the airwaves for have a century prior to Reagan's dismantlement of regulations that could hurt profit) stipulated that it required broadcasters to provide "equal time". That is simply wrong and a cheap conflation of the Equal Time provision for politician's statements.

Funny how a supposed conservative, who is always vigilant for activist judges accreting extra rules and right not in the Constition, is so flip about the obvious distortion of the First Amendment that is known, in legal circles, as "commercial free speech".

I would urge all who care about such falsehood to write Newsweek a letter.


At 12:29 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Yeah, I just saw that piece as well. I feel the same way about Will that you do (e.g., of the guys on the wrong side of things, he at least demonstrates the virtue of intellectual consistency more often than not) as well as the piece in question (it's not an example of Will's more admirable qualities).

Actually, I've been having less and less patience with Will in recent years. I'm glad he criticizes the Bush foreign policy machine (as any traditional conservative should), but he often dresses intellectually dishonest conservative talking points into pseudo-intellectual finery.

PS. There's a good article in the lastest "Nation" about the FCC. A must read.

PPS. The Robert Cray Band rocks.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Clarke assigned the book THE TERROR TIMELINE for his class with Rand Beers at The Kennedy School at Harvard. It is the main research source for the events leading to 9/11, in every major research library except the Library of Congress. It shows what was and what was not done. Clinton seems to have been an appeaser, Bush criminaly negligent.
You should read this book!

At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, not that Newt Gingrich has stated that the Foley/Hastert affair is actually all about Democratic Dirty Tricks, we should all feel chastened.

An then there's William Crystal's comical blaming-the-Florida-voters-for-Foley attempt.

These republican nitwits will try anything... but be truthful.


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