Clarke's Shadow


In the buildup to today's testimony by Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 commission, some TV outlets played video of Richard Clarke's explosive appearance. Clarke's central claim, according to this showdown of testimony, was that George W. Bush and his administration lacked "a sense of urgency" about terrorism in general and Al Qaeda in particular. Clarke has supported the claim against Bush by citing Bush's own statements to Bob Woodward.

As reader Irfan Khawaja points out, however, the interview with Woodward doesn't support Clarke's still-in-play characterization. On page 39 of Woodward's Bush at War, Bush says that he didn't feel the same sense of urgency about Al Qaeda before September 11 that he was to feel after September 11, which seems a lot less confessional than Clarke's rather loose reference would have it, and which doesn't appear to support the edifice of accusation that Clarke has constructed.

Khawaja adds that Clarke has made other such mistakes about Bush's public statements. Among them, telling Meet the Press on March 28 that when the USS Cole was hit, "President Bush was running for office; he never mentioned it." Bush mentioned it the following day. "I hope that we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did the act and take the necessary action. There must be a consequence." You can find the Bush quote in a Washington Post story by Barton Gellman that appeared on January 20, 2002. The central figure in the Gellman piece is Richard Clarke.