Maybe Richard Clarke lied in the July 2002 testimony. Maybe he's an al Qaida mole. Maybe instead of being 98% water like the rest of us he's 98% wax. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe ...
Earlier this afternoon I wrote a lengthy post (a few too many typos in the first iteration, for which I apologize, but I thought time was of the essence) on the shameless and I suspect (for himself) eventually quite damaging speech Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist gave on the Senate floor this afternoon, accusing Dick Clarke of being a perjuror and a profiteer on the blood of 9/11.
Though I didn't see it, I read it. And it's a truly egregious text. To have read it on the Senate floor is the sort of act that will, I think, permanently change how I see him. In any case, see the post below for more details and we'll be discussing it more later. But look at this short passage in a story tonight on MSNBC ...
âMr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath,â Frist said in a speech from the Senate floor, alleging that Clarke said in 2002 that the Bush administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al-Qaida before the attacks.
Frist later retreated from directly accusing Clarke of perjury, telling reporters that he personally had no knowledge that there were any discrepancies between Clarkeâs two appearances. But he said, âUntil you have him under oath both times, you donât know.â
I never cease to be amazed at these guys' ability to outpace my ability to impute bad faith to them.
A few hours after accusing Clarke of perjury, he admits that he has no idea -- not just no idea whether he perjured himself, which is a fairly technical question, but no idea whether there were any inconsistencies at all.
He was just running it up the flag pole. Maybe, maybe, maybe ...
As long as we're talking about it, let me share with you some highlights from Frist's speech ...
I am equally troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their former service as a government insider with access to our nationâs most valuable intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation endured on September 11, 2001.
Mr. President, I do not know if Mr. Clarkeâs motive for theses charges is partisan gain, personal profit, self promotion, or animus because of his failure to win a promotion in the Bush Administration. But the one thing that his motive could not possibly be is to bring clarity to the issue of how we avoid future September 11 attacks.
Third, Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath. In July 2002, in front of the Congressional Joint Inquiry on the September 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke testified under oath that the Administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al Qaeda during its first seven months in office.
Mr. President, it is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media. But if he lied under oath to the United States Congress it is a far more serious matter. As I mentioned, the intelligence committee is seeking to have Mr. Clarkeâs previous testimony declassified so as to permit an examination of Mr. Clarke's two different accounts. Loyalty to any Administration will be no defense if it is found that he has lied before Congress.
In his appearance before the 9-11 Commission, Mr. Clarkeâs theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility. In my view it was not an act of humility, but an act of supreme arrogance and manipulation. Mr Clarke can and will answer for his own conduct â but that is all.
Regardless of Mr. Clarkeâs motive or what he says or implies in his new book, the fact remains that this terrible attack was not caused by the United States Government. No Administration was responsible for the attack. Our nation did not invite the attack.
And speaking of amazing stuff, note this ...
If you recall last Sunday night's 60 Minutes, in which Clark first made his claims, Deputy National Security Advisor Steve Hadley essentially accused Clarke of lying about an alleged encounter between Clarke and President Bush just after 9/11. In this encounter, the president supposedly pressed Clarke to investigate Saddam's possible ties to the attacks.
Hadley was quickly tripped up by the fact that CBS had two sources who confirmed that the encounter had occurred, including one who was in fact present during the discussion.
The White House has kept calling Clarke a liar until today. From CBS this evening ...
Retracted White House statements do little to boost public trust. CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports, until today, the Bush administration denied a meeting had taken place between the president and Clarke, during which Bush allegedly instructed Clarke to investigate Saddam Hussein and Iraq after Sept. 11.
The White House today reversed that comment, and staff members now tell reporters, "We are not denying such a meeting took place. It probably did."
So they called him a liar. But it seems they either had no evidence or their evidence turned out to be wrong.
Now, consider this. Do you think the White House would have changed its tune if CBS didn't come up with another source?
And how about this?
My recollection is that this meeting was supposed to have been an impromptu encounter in the West Wing -- not something like an Oval Office meeting for which there would almost certainly be some sort of record. I also seem to recall that Clarke said this encounter included him and other unnamed persons.
If that's true, and the White House didn't know the identities of the other people (the unnamed persons), who else would have been able to deny that the encounter occurred except the president himself?
Others could confirm it, yes. But if Clarke and Bush were the only identified participants in the alleged encounter, and if the encounter didn't actually happen, who else but Bush himself would be able to say it didn't happen? One of the two or three other people in on this conversation which, in fact, never occurred?
Think about it.
Late Update: Several readers have noted that in Clarke's book, his description of this meeting does reference the names of two persons involved. But those may well have been the two sources who confirmed the account to CBS. If either had denied it, I have to imagine the White House would have gotten them on camera or in front of a notary public real quick. So, the question remains, what was the basis of the White House's denial that this incident occurred, if not a denial from the president?