The campaign to destroy Dick Clarke's credibility is today rolling out (or I should say the White House is rolling out) a background briefing Clarke gave in August 2002. (Needless to say, the White House has taken it off background -- which is in itself reminiscent of this earlier incident. Interestingly, the transcript has thus far only appeared on the White House-subservient Fox News network, which may be a point that bears watching.)
They've brought this transcript forth because in it Clarke seems to follow some of the same line or spin that the Bush administration is now using against him -- much of it this point about whether there was a 'plan' handed over. Now, I've given it a quick read. And on some points there's not much of a contradiction at all. On other points there are contradictions, though I think one of the issues here is that what now Clarke says the new team ignored wasn't a Clinton administration plan per se, but rather his plan.
In any case, the larger point I think is this: Career civil servants working for a given White House do tend to follow that White House's spin when they're giving background briefings. That's hardly a surprise. It's somewhat in the nature of the enterprise.
Luckily we don't have to rely on what Clarke said then or what he's saying now.
He's now come forward, speaking for himself, with a long list of detailed claims and accusations about the White House's inattention to the terrorism issue during the first eight months of the administration and their desire to wrench the war on terror into a second Iraq war after 9/11.
As Fred Kaplan notes in this excellent piece in Slate, if Clarke's claims are factually wrong they should be easily rebuttable -- given that the White House has all the relevant documents and evidence at its disposal. Yet, thus far, they've scarcely made an attempt and have focused all their fire on attacking Clarke personally -- that he was liar and a boob and both out-of-the-loop and responsible for everything that went wrong.
That pretty much tells you the whole story.