24 September 2006

Clinton on Fox. Or was it the other way around?

Where to begin blogging an interview between Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday and former President Bill Clinton?

Clinton is promoting his second annual Clinton Global Initiative. As Wallace explains it, he was given 15 minutes, half of which was to be devoted to the Initiative and half to any thing Wallace chose to bring up. The interview began politely enough, with Wallace asking about some of President Clinton’s comments in a recent New Yorker article, specifically his admission that, being thoroughly honest with himself about his own mortality, he isn’t going to live forever and wants to help as many others live as he can. This is part of the former president’s motivation. Wallace then asks about the difference in effectiveness between a president and a former president when it comes to this sort of work. President Clinton believes that it’s easier being a former president.

Then Wallace tells the president that he received a lot of e-mail in anticipation of their meeting and that the vast majority want to know why he didn’t do more to put Osama bin Laden (hereinafter, OBL) and al-Qaeda out of business. In large part this is a consequence of people having read The Looming Tower, one of the assertions of which is that OBL said the Clinton’s pulling the troops out of Somalia in ’93 proved to him the frailty, the weakness and the cowardice of U. S. troops. The book also mentions that after the attacks on the Cole and Kobar Towers incidents OBL dispersed him men and leaders in expectation of a retaliatory strike, which never came.

President Clinton answered the question but first found it necessary to discuss “the context in which this question arises.” First of all, he’s being asked this question on the Fox Network. Second, ABC-TV broadcast a “right-wing conservative” hit piece, “The Path to 911”, which makes three assertions contradicted by The 911 Commission Report. (Remember that. It’s going to be important, below.) I point this part out, only to mention it’s irrelevance, even if it’s true. (I find this interesting on a personal level because I know that when he took the LSAT, he had to answer questions which asked him to distinguish true assertions which are relevant from true assertions which are irrelevant. He did it well enough to get into law school. I’m pretty sure he still knows how to do it. So this trip down Irrelevant Lane must have been a debunking strategy—very popular among those who have nothing.)

According to President Clinton all those who now say he didn’t do enough are the same people who said, when he was president, that he did too much. They were all trying to get him to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 “the next day” (i.e., the day after the ‘Black Hawk down’ incident). But he didn’t, and refused to, staying another six months and had “an orderly transfer.”

In a telling moment President Clinton responds to the aforementioned assertions by OBL by informing Wallace that, “There’s not a living soul in the world who thought [OBL] had anything to do with Black Hawk down, or even knew that al-Qaeda was a going concern in 1993.” (That’s true enough, I suppose. Although I’ve been following terrorism since my own Army days, I was not privy to the intelligence briefings that the President was, so I’m sure I didn’t know anything about OBL. Besides, in my day, OBL was in Afghanistan involved in the resistance against the Soviets.) Mogadishu, he goes on to say, “wasn’t about [OBL]. It was about Mohammad Farah Aidid killing 22 Pakistani Muslims.” We were there on a humanitarian mission, not to establish a certain kind of government in Somalia.

All of that is true. But, like the earlier discussion of the ‘context’, it’s irrelevant. The assertion was not that OBL had anything to do with ‘The Moge’. The question (i.e., Why didn’t Clinton do more to put OBL out of business?) doesn’t require that OBL had anything to do with the Black Hawk down incident. No one said that, certainly not The Looming Tower. What was said was that OBL said that the incident showed us as weak. OBL observed our performance there, and took note. (Many of us here at home in October 1993 observed our performance there and took note. Heck, the world took note.)

When Wallace points this out President Clinton responds by saying that if we had pulled out “the next day” as “some” wanted him to do, that would have shown us as weak. And this I found most interesting. Let’s slow down and ponder this. According to sources, OBL says that our performance at Mogadishu showed him that we’re weak. In the face of this, the former president tells us what would have shown us as weak. So, never mind what OBL says showed our weakness, Clinton knows better. He knows that, despite what OBL says actually showed him that we’re weak, it’s our leaving the next day that would have shown him that we’re weak. What nonsense.

Here’s the former President’s argument:

1. If we had left the next day, then we would have looked weak.
2. We did not leave the next day.
3. Therefore, we did not look weak.

Just one problem: OBL says that this is when he decided we were weak.


Wallace goes on to remind the former President that The 911 Commission Report says of both the Clinton and Bush (2) administrations that although they both took the OBL threat seriously, the preparations were not the same as would be mustered for a 1st, 2nd or even a 3rd rank enemy. (Did you remember what I told you to remember about President Clinton’s reliance upon this same report?) According to him, the report is wrong, and we need to read Richard Clark’s book. This was monumental. An ABC-TV docu-drama may not make assertions contradicted by the 911 Commission Report, but Richard Clark may. A very telling reversal of position isn’t it? (Like I always say: Leftists think we’re stupid.) I recall that before the movie was aired, the former president said he thought they “ought to tell the truth.” And at that time the truth was The 911 Commission Report. But now that the same report (which may not be contradicted by a docu-drama) says something less-than-favorable about him, we must turn to someone else, someone who is also contradicted by The 911 Commission Report. According to Clark, the Clinton administration took “vigorous action” after the Kobar Towers attack.

He sums up by saying that anyone who doesn’t think he did enough should read Clark’s book, after which there is this exchange:

Wallace: Do you think you did enough?
Clinton: No, because I didn’t get him?
Wallace: Right!
Clinton: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clark, who got demoted. You did Fox’s bidding on this show. You did your nice, little conservative hit job on me.” [Pound pulpit here, argument weak!] More left-wing ad hominem garbage designed to distract us from the fact that he has nothing.

First of all, The 911 Commission was aware of all that he had done and still finds that what he did simply did not rise to the same level of preparedness as would be given to a 1st, 2nd or 3rd ranked threat. Second, when asked if he did enough, he said “No.” Well, once he admits to not having done enough, why object to anyone who agrees with his own assessment? It staggers the imagination!

And apparently, President Clinton has not been reading papers and watching television news. He had the audacity to claim that tough questions such as this have never been asked of anyone in the Bush administration! I found it almost impossible not to laugh one of those laughs that hurts your stomach muscles.

Clinton: I want to know how many people you have asked, “Why didn’t you do anything about the Cole?” [I think I do remember this question being asked.] I want to know how many people you asked, “Why’d you fire Dick Clark?” [I know I remember this question. It was asked of several people in the administration several times, right after Clark’s aforementioned 911-Commission-Report-contradicting book was released.] You’ve never asked that, have you Chris? Tell the truth.”

The former president closed this segment with some more ad hominem. He claimed that Wallace set the interview up because Fox is going to be criticized by its viewers because of Rupert Murdoch’s support for Clinton’s work on global climate change. Yup. More ad hominem. Oh, and irrelevant too. Even if it’s true that Fox viewers are upset, their being upset has nothing to do with the truth of any assertion at all about whether President Clinton did enough to put OBL out of business. (I wouldn’t know: I don’t watch much television news in the first place. It takes too long. I can read tens of times more news in a half hour than I can catch on TV or even radio. And I certainly don’t need pictures!)

I’ll tell you one thing. If I were a reporter interviewing that man, it’d be awfully difficult to resist the urge to break that man’s index finger. I envy Chris Wallace his self-control.

Note: This was written by special request. I hope the requesting party is not disappointed.


About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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