Sunday, October 01, 2006

 

Grand Failure

Chris Wallace inadvertantly scratched the raw flesh of Bill Clinton's ego by famously asking him if he had done everything he could to capture bin Laden before 9/11. The honest answer of course is not just "no" but "HELL NO!", but Mount Clinton erupted on camera and pointed his finger at Wallace as he had at the camera whilst denying he'd used the Oval Office to betray his wife's and his country's trust.

It's an historic moment well analysed by Richard Minter in The Australian:

Clinton’s performance, his defenders say, was planned in advance to stiffen his party’s spine and teach it how to fight back. Was it planned? “Absolutely not,” Wallace told me. Off camera, during the interview, he said he saw Clinton’s public relations man waving his arms, demanding that the interview be terminated immediately. At the end of the interview, Clinton was still visibly angry and threatened to fire his PR man if he ever had to endure another interview like that one.

Why is this worth thinking about? Every Bush policy that arouses the ire of the anti-war set - the Patriot Act, renditions, detention without trial and pre-emptive war - is a departure from the Clinton years. Where Clinton and Bush policies overlap - air attacks on terrorist infrastructure, secret presidential orders to kill terrorists, intelligence sharing with allies, seizure of terrorist bank accounts, using police to arrest suspected terrorists - there is little friction. Should America return to Clinton policies or soldier on with Bush’s? While finger-pointing is pointless, this debate is important because it is about the future as much as the past.

So it is vital that this debate be honest, but so far it hasn’t been.

Clinton’s outrage at Wallace’s question is an attempt to polarise America’s memory, to drive partisans to his side. This may be good for Clinton’s reputation (and his wife’s political prospects), but it is ultimately unhealthy. What we need now is a cold-eyed, dead-sober reckoning of what works against terrorists and what does not.

Adults Only: Read the rest.

Question: Is it okay for a President to contract hired killers to assassinate bin Laden, as Clinton asserted? Okay, it's a lie, but he nonetheless claimed the power in the Wallace interview, as has Bush repeatedly. But if so, that would retroactively make Clinton as bad as the terrorists, if not worse. And any idiot can (and will) tell you that bad-as-terrorists-if-not-worse-Presidents are bad.

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