Skip to comments.WHILE CLINTON SLEPT (AND DID OTHER THINGS)
Posted on 09/12/2003 7:17:25 AM PDT by Jerrybob
These are excerpts from a chapter from Dick Morris' new book, "Off With Their Heads - Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists In American Politics, Media, Business."
This chapter is titled, "How Clinton Left Ticking Terror Time Bombs For Bush To Discover."
As King Louis XV lay dying, he ruminated about the state of the pre-revolutionary French kingdom his son would soon inherit. Every-where he looked, he saw peril -- the anger of the peasants, the arrogance of the nobility, the unfairness of the tax system. Sadly, he reflected that the young man who would become Louis XVI faced tough times. Old King Louis may not have known that his son and his daughter-in-law, Marie Antoinette, would lose their heads to the guillotine, but he must have had some sense of looming catastrophe. "Après moi, le deluge," he said. After me, the disaster.
Clinton knew where three time bombs lay. His national security people even briefed Bush's incoming administration on the dangers of al Qaeda as they left office. But Clinton had done little to catch al Qaeda; he'd done nothing to rein in Iraq; and he had actively covered for North Korea as it violated its treaty commitments.
As he left the White House, he could well have said: Après moi, le deluge.
On the war on terror, Clinton was an utter and total failure. His record of inaction is bad enough, but his inability to grasp the dimensions of the issue, as I witnessed it in our conversations, was worse. In our time this may have become a trite phrase, but there's simply no other way to put it: He just didn't get it.
Clinton knew every statistic, argument, and nuance of the issues he had made his own: welfare reform, deficit reduction, student performance, Head Start availability, crime, export promotion, and so on. But on terrorism, during his first term, the period I witnessed firsthand, he knew little and cared less.
All our terrorist problems were born during the Clinton years.
All three critical situations America faces today -- al Qaeda, Iraq, and North Korea -- were either incubated or exacerbated on Bill Clinton's watch.
As I first became aware of this situation, I believed Bill Clinton was guilty of negligence and oversight. As I read the evidence, however, the picture darkened significantly. Clinton's attitude probably started as neglect of global terrorism -- a field alien to the Arkansas governor's experience and worldview. But as his administration evolved and entered its second term, its failure to deal with these three looming threats began to seem more and more conscious, even deliberate.
Sapped by the effort to resist impeachment, focused on burnishing his legacy through his phantom deal with North Korea, anxious to avoid the political risk of major military action on the ground against al Qaeda, and eager to avoid stirring up things in Iraq, Bill Clinton deliberately postponed dealing with this trio of threats so he could leave office under a seemingly sunny sky.
The World Trade Center Bombing: First Shot Across the Bow
President Bill Clinton's uneasy history with terrorism began thirty-six days after he swore to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." On February 26, 1993, a terrorist bomb exploded in the B-2 parking garage under One World Trade Center. The blast was triggered by twelve hundred pounds of urea nitrate, found in fertilizer, and three tanks of compressed hydrogen. This attack, the first foreign terrorist bombing on U.S. soil in modern times, ripped a five-floor hole in the building, instantly killing six people and injuring a thousand others.
In later years, in subsequent attacks, we became accustomed to seeing President Clinton at the site of such tragedies, seemingly struggling to control his emotions, biting his lower lip and fighting back tears. But New Yorkers were spared that piece of theater as they tried to cope with the impact of the bombing. The president never visited the site of the attack; he did not attend any of the funerals of its victims. What he did was go about his public routine.
Though he said he was "heartbroken" for the families of those killed in the blast, while in New Jersey Clinton assured citizens that "we've been very blessed in this country to have been free of the kind of terrorist activity that has gripped other countries. But I think it's important that we not overreact to it." He called on New Yorkers "to keep your courage up and go about your lives." The Globe noted that "while security was noticeably tight during Clinton's visit to New Brunswick and Piscataway, he did leave his limousine at one point to ride from the airport in Newark with some children going to a learning center." First things first.
Why didn't Clinton visit the site? The emphasis in his public statements and in the demeanor of New York officials in the aftermath of the attack was to avoid an "overreaction." Worried about public panic, and perhaps concerned that a presidential visit would get in the way of rescue and investigative efforts, New York officials told Clinton to stay away.
Okay, but what about afterward? President Bush let the smoke clear at Ground Zero for a few days after 9/11, but less than a week went by before he went and memorably addressed the rescue workers through a bullhorn, rallying them and reinvigorating America's sagging spirits. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, never visited the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the 1993 bombing.
He didn't go because he chose to treat the attack as an isolated criminal act, devoid of serious foreign policy or military implications. The fact that this was the first foreign terrorist attack on American soil seems to have set off no alarm bells at the young Clinton White House. The president treated it as a crime rather than as a foreign policy emergency. He defined terrorism as a law enforcement problem, not as a matter of national security. To Bill Clinton, it was not unlike any other homicide.
There was no effort to mobilize the nation, to sound the alarm, to reequip the military and intelligence apparatus to cope with the new threat. The government did nothing. Indeed, the director of the CIA, R. James Woolsey, later said he had not had a single private meeting with President Clinton through all of 1993 and 1994. Incredible.
In June 1993, when the FBI arrested Sheikh Rahman and nine of his followers, President Clinton must have been told that the terrorist groups in and around New York City were actively plotting massive destruction of high-profile targets. The World Trade Center had already been bombed, the United Nations and bridges and tunnels had been targeted. What else did the president need to grasp the gravity of the situation? Yet he never ordered any major shakeup of the antiterror apparatus. No extra tools were given to the FBI. No massive mobilization was declared. The government simply shrugged its shoulders; the bank robbers had been caught, after all; why make a fuss?
The most important link in the chain of evidence that should have alerted Clinton to the growing threat came in January 1995, when Yousef himself was finally arrested in Pakistan, two years after orchestrating the World Trade Center bombing. Under interrogation, Emerson writes, the terrorist leader said he had "hoped [WTC] Tower One would fall sideways into Tower Two" as a result of the bombing, "knocking over both and killing 250,000 people." More important, an examination of Yousef's laptop computer revealed that he had "also participated in a plan to blow up eleven American jetliners within 48 hours -- a disaster that was only barely avoided by chance."
One would have imagined that, at the very least, the president would have responded to the evidence of such a plan with a major air-safety initiative. Even if he wanted to avoid alarming the traveling public and jeopardizing airline revenues, one would think he would still have moved vigorously to tighten security, concealing the reason for his actions if necessary. Instead, there was nothing. No action, no proposals, no initiatives, no direction. It was as if nothing out of the ordinary had been unearthed by the FBI. Why not?
North Korea: The Feel-Good Deal That Left Our Security Dangling
On October 5, 2002, a bombshell burst: North Korea acknowledged, as The Washington Post reported, that it "has been secretly developing nuclear weapons for years in violation of international agreements." One official in George W. Bush's administration called it a "jaw drop-ping" revelation. The North Koreans were unapologetic; indeed, they were "assertive, aggressive about it."
The revelation was doubly shocking in light of a widely hailed agreement the Clinton administration had signed with North Korea, in 1994, which was to have banned the development of atomic weapons or the diversion of fuel from North Korea's nuclear reactors.
After he left office, President Clinton feigned surprise that North Korea was cheating and developing nuclear weapons despite its commitments in 1994. He told interviewer Larry King, on February 6, 2003, that "it turns out they [North Korea] had this smaller laboratory program to develop a nuclear bomb with enriched uranium." He might not have said so explicitly, but Clinton's implication was clear: The development was news to him. Don't be fooled: The revelation of North Korea's perfidy may have been a surprise to the world,
But it was no surprise to Bill Clinton. As early as 1998, The Washington Post reported, U.S. intelligence had warned that the rogue nation was developing bombs in secret under-ground locations. But Clinton did nothing; indeed, he assured Congress that North Korea was in compliance with the 1994 agreement so that it wouldn't cut off the purse strings that funded the U.S. end of the deal.
By his willful blindness to North Korea's conduct and his wishful thinking that the regime would abide by the deal he had made with it in 1994, Bill Clinton had opened the door to one of the most serious threats to our national security since the end of the cold war.
When prompt action could have headed off North Korean noncompliance, Bill Clinton willfully and deliberately did nothing, allowing the North to build its bombs in its underground caverns.
And, as in so many other situations, he left the problem to George W. Bush.
The Crackdown That Didn't Happen-Clinton Refuses to Act to Deport Illegal Immigrants
"Make states issue driver's licenses [to immigrants] which expire when [their] visas do," I suggested to President Clinton on March 16, 1995, during a strategy meeting in the White House's East Wing. Noting that half of the nation's illegal aliens had evaded the system by overstaying their visas, I proposed a system providing for "automatic referral from motor-vehicles agencies to the INS" for deportation when routine traffic stops revealed drivers without licenses who were here illegally.
Even though I renewed the proposal at four subsequent meetings with the president, it was never adopted. What a shame!
Three of the 9/11 hijackers had been pulled over by traffic cops in the months before 9/11. Had the drivers' license proposal been accepted, we might have sent them packing to the Middle East before they had their chance to fly airplanes into our buildings. In April 2001 -- five months before 9/11 -- Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers, was stopped by police near Miami for driving without a license. He was summoned to appear in court, never showed up, a bench warrant was issued, and the matter ended. Had the motor vehicle/ INS/FBI interface been functioning at that time, the traffic cop would have discovered that Atta was in the country illegally, his visa having expired in January 2001. Atta would have been arrested on the spot and bound over to the INS for deportation. He might not have been in the United States to lead the 9/11 hijackers on their grisly mission.
Terrorism Strikes: Oklahoma City Bombing
As Clinton confronted the Oklahoma City bombing, with its 168 deaths, it became increasingly clear that he was more comfortable offering America spiritual leadership in the struggle to find meaning in the piles of rubble than he was in taking practical steps to thwart future attacks. Appearing on 60 Minutes, Clinton stressed the emotional and spiritual implications of the Oklahoma City bombing, using his enormous capacity for empathy to ease the suffering of those who had lost loved ones and of a nation in shock. Reaching eloquently into the nation's soul, Clinton drew spiritual conclusions from the bombing and gave advice on how to handle the aftermath. "The anger you feel is valid but you must not allow yourselves to be consumed by it. The hurt you feel must not be allowed to turn into hate, but instead into the search for justice. The loss you feel must not paralyze your own lives. Instead, you must try to pay tribute to your loved ones by continuing to do all the things they left undone."
As I watched the coverage, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop-for the president to make specific proposals to stop terrorism before it spread further. It seemed obvious that a climactic opportunity was being wasted. But each time we spoke, the president said he felt handicapped by the FBI and by the needs of the investigation.
The Pseudo-Sanctions Against Iran
The Germans were right about one thing. Clinton was grandstanding when he signed the Iranian sanctions bill on August 6, 1996, days before the Republican National Convention nominated Bob Dole as his opponent. Piously, the president told our allies, "you cannot do business with countries that practice commerce with you by day while funding or protecting the terrorists who kill you and your innocent civilians by night."
But what Clinton didn't say when he signed the bill was that he never planned to enforce it. For the rest of his presidency, whenever a European company tripped the wire that should have led to sanctions, Clinton demurred, invoking the national security waiver. Hypocritical in the extreme, he had made a show of his toughness by signing a bill he never intended to use and by approving sanctions he never planned to impose.
Inaction on the Khobar Towers Bombing
When a truck carrying the equivalent of twenty thousand pounds of TNT exploded outside the Khobar Towers barracks in June 1996, President Clinton had his usual stern words for the attackers: "The explosion appears to be the work of terrorists, and if that is the case, like all Americans, I am outraged by it. The cowards who committed this murderous act must not go unpunished."
And yet, when the Saudi Arabian government discouraged FBI director Louis Freeh's efforts to investigate the attack, Clinton acquiesced.
The Khobar Towers bombing was bin Laden's second attack in eight months in Saudi Arabia. On November 12, 1995, he had orchestrated a bombing of the Office of the Program Manager of the Saudi National Guard in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The U.S. military had used he building to train Saudi troops; five Americans were killed in the bombing. The Saudi government promptly arrested and quickly executed four men blamed for the attack. U.S. officials were never permitted to interrogate the suspects.
The Washington Post quoted a senior U.S. law-enforcement official as saying: "They [the Saudis] didn't let the FBI interview these guys and then they killed them." The official speculated that the Saudis did not want the United States to interview the bombers because it was "fearful of what we might find out once the United States gets a complete picture of those connected to the Riyadh bombing or to dissident movements." As we now know, that trail would have led straight to Osama bin Laden.
Iraq: Saddam Plays Clinton
When George H. W. Bush handed the White House over to Bill Clinton, Saddam Hussein was as completely under wraps as it is possible for a foreign leader of a sovereign state to be. His nation was blocked from selling oil and swarming with U.N. inspectors. Without revenue or the privacy in which to rearm, Saddam and his shattered military posed little international threat. But when Clinton passed power to Bush's son eight years later, Iraq was frantically rearming, its coffers bulging with $40-$60 million income daily from the sale of 2 million barrels of oil. Arms inspectors were nowhere to be found, having been thrown out of the country by the Iraqi dictator. Saddam was building a war machine that would once again frighten the world with its potential for deadly weapons of mass destruction.
As long as Saddam was willing to be "humiliated" before the American public and let Clinton play the part of the tough and resolute president on the public stage, he could get away with anything-and eventually did.
Even after 9/11, Clinton was still seeing the terrorist issue through his opaque lens. As George W. Bush was condemning terrorism as a force that must be obliterated, Clinton provided a window on his more complex and nuanced view of the subject in a speech at Georgetown University on November 7, 2001, barely two months after the attack.
Noting that terrorism "has a very long history, as long as organized combat itself," Clinton reminded his audience of what he labeled American terrorism, in an implicit reminder not to see the issue as a simple contrast of good vs. evil. He recited a genealogy of terrorism, from the Crusades through the slave trade and the treatment of Native Americans. Carrying his narrative into the present day, Clinton analogized terrorism to "hate crimes rooted in race, religion, or sexual orientation." The implication was clear: We were not all good, so they could not be all evil.
However, none of their efforts would have succeeded but for the fears, worries, and phobias that raged inside Bill Clinton's mind: fear that if he led American troops into a battle with casualties, his own draft record would return to bite him politically; worry that he would alienate his Hispanic constituency if he cracked down on illegal aliens; concern that an increase in the price of oil could spell his political doom; hesitation in the face of European intransigence and worry that his own foreign-policy experts would leak that he was incompetent and too political; willingness to believe he had a deal with North Korea when all he had was a vague and misleading statement of intentions; unwillingness to go to war with Saddam Hussein; trepidation that civil libertarian criticism would undermine his domestic support; and, finally, a morally relativist refusal to see Saddam, al Qaeda, or Kim Jong Il as forces of evil. These factors, more than any advice from his advisers, paralyzed Bill Clinton's efforts to stem the forces of terror.
By the second half of Clinton's second term, it was too late to focus on terrorism with the intensity the issue required. Disgraced by the Lewinsky scandal, distrusted for lying about his relationship with the intern, hounded by the Republicans during impeachment, Bill Clinton lacked the political and moral authority to stand up to international terror.
Not that he wanted to. As 1998, 1999, and then 2000 brought more and more evidence of an international terrorist conspiracy against America, he became more obsessed with his twin political goals: surviving impeachment and putting his wife in the U.S. Senate.
The White House became a campaign headquarters for Hillary. Bill Clinton had the worst of both worlds: the eroded power of a lame-duck president about to leave office and the timidity of a man focused on the next election. Would an invasion of Afghanistan with ground troops backfire? Was there enough support to pull it off? Would his critics say he was "wagging the dog"-using a war to regain his political footing? Were these risks worth taking as his wife was beginning her political career? No way.
And so Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong Il lived to fight again another day-against a tougher president.
When Henry Kissinger asked Chinese foreign minister Chou En-Lai what he thought about the French Revolution of 1789, the Communist replied, "It's too soon to tell." We err when we judge a president too quickly after he leaves office. It is only in the hindsight of subsequent events that we understand the wisdom or the folly of his actions.
The success of the containment doctrine in bringing down the Soviet Union gave Harry Truman a vindication that was fifty years in coming.
Vietnam fell, and no other domino keeled over. Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines-all supposed further casualties of a failure to stop communism in Vietnam-survived our defeat just fine. And when Soviet communism fell fifteen years later, the folly of John-son's and Nixon's obsessions with Vietnam became apparent to all.
As the 1980s recede into history, Ronald Reagan's efforts to free the economy of government constraints seems wiser and wiser. Japan and Germany, the poster children for planned economies, stagnate, but Reagan's America keeps growing.
Bill Clinton looked a lot better in the White House than he does in the years since. We assumed that he had North Korea under control. He didn't. We let Clinton distract us from Saddam's warlike preparations. We shouldn't have. And we didn't give Osama bin Laden much thought. Big mistake.
In hindsight, Clinton left us naked and unprepared for the perils of terrorism. For all Clinton's accomplishments (welfare reform, crime reduction, the balanced budget, prosperity, and freer trade), and for all his failures (impeachment, Lewinsky, Paula Jones, the FBI files, Whitewater, and the pardons), it may well be his failure to fight terrorism that will dominate his legacy.
And it should.
Was Larry Flynt also correct for exposing the lack of character of several Republicans?
You can consider it insanity, but I believe it with all my heart. You may want to read Betrayal by Bill Gertz to get a better grasp of Clinton's monumental failure towards national security.
Republicans didn't call him a rapist. His accusers did. The trial was a sham only because the sworn president committed perjury.
Impeachment scandal? Nooooo, you're not a Clinton defender. You're a journalist, right? Objective, fair, balanced?
Did not the scandal -- and WJC's subsequent perjury -- lead to the impeachment?
Your assertion that Clinton based important policy decisions on how those mean, nasty republicans might do to him is silly drivel.
The Clintons and their ilk were most successful in marginalizing their political opponents just as they marginalized the FBI and CIA.
Oh, my! You are going to cite Blumenthal to buttress clinton as a "great" president?
What a joke.
Was he, Doe?
I presume you refer to Hyde, Livingston, and Gingrich.
How does their activity compare to clinton? Gingrich was shameful in the affair with the staffer, though they are now married that is not an excuse to carry on in that fashion. But he did have to step aside.
I'll never forget Bob Livingston stepping up to speak at the impeachment and the dems yelling out "Resign! Resign!"
And he did!
As to Hyde, his affair was ancient history, and as is often noted on the California recall threads, there is every difference in the world between someone who behaves a certain way early in their lives who then changes for the better, and someone who is mired in corruption and depravity.
I don't protest exposure of poor character, but Larry Flynt is scum in every way and I wouldn't be proud to associate with the likes of him.
I see. So there are different morals applied to the opposition (the Democrats) than to the Republicans. Just making sure that was the case.
Pray for GW and Our Troops
No, you don't see, as that is not what SolutionsOnly said.
You best make sure that you understand that, but evidently from your tone and comments, you won't.
Why do you think the accusations about almost starting WWIII are about character? Seems to me they are about judgment. He ordered troops into Pristina Airpart, where an armed confrontation with Russian troops was almost inevitable.
Then you speak about the 'honor' with which he served his country. Seems to me you are raising the character issue. That is, he has honor (you claim) so he would be a good president.
Seems to me character is as important as judgment. Based on what I have seen, Bill and Hill have execrable character. The disasters of their presidency directly resulted from their character defects. So why should character be off the table?
The nearest historic comparison is Nixon. Like Clinton, a real smart guy with deep and serious character problems. Those problems convulsed our nation as much or even more than did Clinton's.
The difference in the historic comparison lies in the reaction of Clinton and Nixon's respective supporters. When Nixon's lies and obstruction of justice were exposed, Republicans stopped supporting him. When Clinton's were exposed, Democrats just clung to Clinton harder.
Seems to me one real dividing line is between Conservatives and Liberal supporters here. Conservatives think character counts and will abandon their president when he is exposed. Liberals think character doesn't count and will defend their president no matter how execrable his behavior.
Seems to me the other is between the moral relativists and absolutists. After the 60's, most folks who bought into the moral relativism of the 60's became democrats. Thus the stock of potential candidates for the dems is comprised of folks who think there are only shades of gray. And thus, the democrats have more 'character challenged' candidates than the republicans.
So taking character off the table would help the democrats.
Is it possible you don't like assessing character type issues because you are a liberal and understand, correctly I think, that since the breakdown in morals in the 60's, character is more often a problem for Democrat presidential candidates than it is for Republicans?
Actually, I didn't know it. But, then again, I don't really care either. He never made an issue of it as far as I know.
Yes, we can. Beruit was probably the lowest point of the Reagan administration.
Alas, Somalia was NOT the low point of the Clintons.