The Right Coast

April 01, 2004
Krauthammer and Coulter on Clarke
By Mike Rappaport

My obsession with these stories continues. I realized that I had not mentioned my favorite columnist's take on Clarke. For an excerpt from Charles Krauthammer's column:
    The "Frontline" interviewer asked Clarke whether failing to blow up the camps and take out the Afghan sanctuary [during the Clinton Administration] was a "pretty basic mistake."

    Clarke's answer is unbelievable: "Well, I'm not prepared to call it a mistake. It was a judgment made by people who had to take into account a lot of other issues. . . . There was the Middle East peace process going on. There was the war in Yugoslavia going on. People above my rank had to judge what could be done in the counterterrorism world at a time when they were also pursuing other national goals."

    This is significant for two reasons. First, if the Clarke of 2002 was telling the truth, then the Clarke of this week -- the one who told the Sept. 11 commission under oath that "fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration -- certainly [there was] no higher priority" -- is a liar.

    Second, he becomes not just a perjurer but a partisan perjurer. He savages Bush for not having made al Qaeda his top national security priority, but he refuses even to call a "mistake" Clinton's staggering dereliction in putting Yasser Arafat and Yugoslavia(!) above fighting al Qaeda.
Perhaps the best thing on Clarke and 9/11, however, is written by Ann Coulter, in her column this week. Coulter takes a lot of heat even from the right, but much of the criticism is inappropriate. Coulter is not trying to write "balanced" columns -- balance which is more appearance than reality in many "balanced approaches", such as with Clarke's claims. Instead, she focuses in on what she regards as the essential point and then makes the case for it. It is true that her view of the essence, in general and in her most recent column, is critical of Democrats and moderate Republicans, but the real question is how strong her arguments are.

In her most recent column, she rehearses the history of presidential responses to terrorism and shows how Carter and Clinton did little to address terrorism. The first Bush did more, but not that much more. Reagan does the most, as does President Bush (especially post 9-11).

I am sure that there are details that are being left out and that certain events are construed in favor of conservative Republicans. (Of course, other columnists never do this.) But the real value of the Coulter column is how much evidence she can supply for her claim. She is able to make an historically sophisticated point (that others have neglected), while both powerfully refuting and ridiculing Clarke. There is a reason Coulter is a best seller.