There's no disputing the fact that the White House slime job on Richard Clarke is just that -- a slime job. They rarely dispute his facts and here's why: the major facts are pretty much supported by Bob Woodward's earlier valentine to the President called "Bush at War."
Today, there's a roundup on the www.dailyhowler.com that compares quotes from "Bush at War" and "Against All Enemies. Here's part of it:
"Here are four of Clarke's "controversial" charges, along with the supporting material from Woodward's much-loved book:
Rummy's targets: Pundits found it hard to believe that Rummy really said it! On September 12, Clarke alleged, the wise old owl was prowling the White House, looking for someone to bomb:
CLARKE (page 31): Later in the day, Secretary Rumsfeld complained that there were no decent targets for bombing in Afghanistan and that we should consider bombing Iraq, which, he said, had better targets. At first I thought Rumsfeld was joking. But he was serious and the President did not reject out of hand the idea of attacking Iraq.
Pundits wondered if this could be true. They should have studied their Woodward--for example, his account of Camp David on 9/15:
WOODWARD (page 84): When the group reconvened, Rumsfeld asked, Is this the time to attack Iraq? He noted that there would be a big build-up of forces in the region, and he was still deeply worried about the availability of good targets in Afghanistan.
In Bush at War, a string of advisers note that Iraq would provide better targets. (Hence the word "still" in the passage above.) Last weekend, Rumsfeld was asked about Clarke's troubling claim by Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday. Rummy gave two rambling replies; in the course of his non-answer answers, he never denied making the statement which Clarke records in his book.
Rummy and Wolfie's designs on Iraq: Say what? One of Clarke's controversial claims concerned alleged designs on Iraq. Scribes were shocked by Clarke's account of life on September 12:
CLARKE (page 30): I expected to go back to a round of meetings examining what the next attacks [against America] could be, what our vulnerabilities were, what we could do about them in the short term. Instead, I walked into a series of discussions about Iraq. At first I was incredulous that we were talking about something other than getting al Qaeda. Then I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq.
What a controversial statement! Unless you read Woodward--same day:
WOODWARD (page 49): Rumsfeld raised the question of Iraq. Why shouldn't we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? he asked. Rumsfeld was speaking not only for himself when he raised the question. His deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, was committed to a policy that would make Iraq a principal target in the first round of the war on terrorism.
Not that there was anything wrong with it, but that's what Woodward records! Indeed, Woodward shows Cheney voicing a similar view:
WOODWARD (page 43): "To the extent we define our task broadly," Cheney said [at a 9/12 NSC meeting], "including those who support terrorism, then we get at states. And it's easier to find them than it is to find bin Laden."
Again, rumination on easier targets.
Bush's testes: Did Bush have a jones for linking Saddam to 9/11? That was Clarke's controversial impression on September 12. Everyone knew how shocking it was when the profiteer dared to say this:
CLARKE (page 32): "Look into Iraq, Saddam," the President said testily and left us. Lisa Gordon-Hagerty stared after him with her mouth hanging open.
Everyone knew it was controversial when Clarke recorded this troubling notion--the notion that Bush was eager to link Saddam to 9/11. Maybe they should have read their Woodward. He records Bush's view on September 17:
WOODWARD (page 98): Bush said he wanted a plan to stabilize Pakistan and protect it against the consequences of supporting the U.S.
As for Saddam Hussein, the president ended the debate. "I believe Iraq was involved, but I'm not going to strike them now. I don't have the evidence at this point."
In fact, he didn't have the evidence, but according to Woodward, he asserted belief. For the record, it's odd that Bush would have reached this judgment. Earlier, Woodward records the views of Wolfowitz, the most anti-Saddam Bush adviser:
WOODWARD (page 83): [Wolfowitz] worried about 100,000 American troops bogged down in mountain fighting in Afghanistan six months from then. In contrast, Iraq was a brittle, oppressive regime that might break easily. It was doable. He estimated that there was a 10 to 50 percent chance Saddam was involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Even Wolfie was only at 10 to 50 percent. By the way, this passage provides another bit of "easier target" thinking.
Not that urgent: According to Clarke, the threat of terror wasn't "urgent" for the Bush Admin before 9/11. In this case, Clarke himself told scribes where to go. Yep! He sent them straight to this passage in Woodward:
WOODWARD (page 39): [Bush] acknowledged that bin Laden was not his focus or that of his national security team. "There was a significant difference in my attitude after September 11. I was not on point...I didn't have that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling."
Oof! The White House would love to get that one back! Of course, the pundits would have missed it too. But Clarke just keeps bringing it up.