FACT: The Bush Administration has yet to deal substantively with Clarke's factual claims, instead waging a determined smear campaign against him. However, the attacks on Clarke are contradictory.
FACT: Condoleeza Rice still refuses to testify before the 9-11 commission. Josh Marshall points out why her separation-of-powers argument is false.
from the transcript of Richard Clarke on Larry King Live:
CLARKE: Time Magazine came out with a very explosive story saying, that, in fact, the White House hasn't done everything it could have done.
That in fact, that the administration had been handed a plan by me at the beginning of the administration to deal with al Qaeda and that they ignored it�
�Well, that hurt the White House a lot for obvious reasons. It was true.
And they asked me to try to help them out.
I was working for the president of the United States at the time. And I said, well, look, I'm not going to lie. And they said, look, can't you at least emphasize the things that we did do? Emphasize the positive?
Well, you had no other choice at that moment�
�if you want to stay inside the government and try to continue to change it from inside, you can stay on, do what they ask you to do, give a background briefing to the press and emphasize those things which they had done�.
But, you know, it seems very ironic to me that what the White House is sort of saying is they don't understand why I, as a special assistant to the president of the United States, didn't criticize the president to the press.
If I had criticized the president to the press as a special assistant, I would have been fired within an hour. They know that.
This is part of their whole attempt to get Larry King to ask Dick Clarke this kind of question. So we're not talking about the major issue.
KING: We're going to get to that in a minute. But who told you to do that briefing?
CLARKE: The national security adviser, the press secretary, the communication's director, they all talked to me, asked me to do the briefing and were telling me to spin it in a very positive way.
Former IL Governor (R) Jim Thompson and former Reagan Navy Secretary John Lehmann tried to nail Clarke on the supposed contradiction during the testimony yesterday (and if you haven't read the full transcript or seen the video on CSPAN, you're missing out on genuine history), and Clarke completely and utterly routed them. Clarke's credibility is rock solid.
I highly recommend Nick Confessore's analysis as well. His main point:
It does not follow that we can blame the Bush administration for 9/11. There's no guarantee that, had Clarke not been stripped of his authority to run "principals meetings" (that is, meetings of cabinet secretaries) on counter-terrorism, had Condi Rice pushed Clarke's concerns up the command chain sooner than one week before 9/11 (he requested a principal's meeting on the topic during Bush's first week in office), had key officials at the Pentagon not been blinded by their obsession with Iraq, had counterterrorism budgets not been cut at Justice, that we would have nabbed the 9/11 perpetrators before they acted. The administration deserves enormous discredit for ignoring what proved to be very good advice until it was too late. And voters should judge the administration's credibility and worth on national security matters in part based on that decision. But only the 9/11 perpetators are, ultimately, responsible for 9/11.
For me, at least, the key question is: When confronted with horrific evidence that you've been doing things wrong all along, do you then change what you're doing?
It is on that question that the magnitude of the White House's irresponsibility began to come into focus.
And that is exactly why Rice won't testify, why the Administration is stonewalling the 9-11 commission, and why they are trying to smear Clarke rather than respond to his claims directly and honestly. They have an empty hand.