September 25, 2006
If you ask me, Bill Clinton's furious, hot-headed retort to Chris Wallace during a Fox News interview about his administration's lapses in dealing with terrorism suggests a guilty conscience. He really flew off the handle, shrilly blaming neoconservatives for not stopping Osama bin Laden. In contrast, "At least I tried." Sheesh. That aggressive finger-wagging and hints of a "vast right-wing conspiracy," just like 1998 all over again! The questions put by Wallace were perfectly reasonable, and could have been answered fairly convincingly without much loss of face by Clinton, but he simply could not stand to share any of the blame for 9/11. Tony Snow put it succinctly (see foxnews.com): "He retorts, you decide." Clearly, the former president doth protest too much. The harder he strains to magnify his legacy, the smaller he shrinks in stature. The Washington Post reports that Clinton was angry because he thought he was going to be asked about his global climate proposals. Perhaps. Personally, I prefer to minimize the role of politics in debates over who failed the most in dealing with the threat of Al Qaeda. As I wrote on April 19, 2005,
To me, it's fairly obvious that both President Bush ("W") and President Clinton could have been more alert to the threat of terrorism, and even more obvious that partisan bickering over which of the two leaders did a better or worse job in that regard is not only pointless, but serves to divide us further, which is exactly what our enemies want.
Clinton's strident self-justification not only backfired, it unnecessarily stoked partisan animosity, just when we should be striving for national unity.
Last week's agreement between President Bush and the "rebellious" moderate Republican senators (Warner, McCain, Graham, and Chaffee) was a rare moment of common sense prevailing in Washington. Of course most Americans want our government to abide by the Geneva Convention to the maximum extent possible, but most of us do not want to subject our judicial processes to foreign oversight. Bush has pushed his discretionary executive powers a bit too far on more than one occasion, and it was entirely proper and necessary for the U.S. Senate to play its constitutional role in checking executive power. Fortunately, leaders on both side of Pennsylvania realized that we are all on the same side in this war, so there had to be some reasonable middle ground to satsify the concerns of both security and justice. Of course, Washingtonians tried to spin the agreement to make one side or the other look better, but as Ann Althouse (via Instapundit) warns, we shouldn't take such explanations at face value. So does it really matter which side compomised more? Not to me.