The Right Coast

July 28, 2004
Bush v. Clinton
By Mike Rappaport

According to John Podhoretz:

When it comes to the historical record on the American response to al Qaeda, you now have to ask yourself: Whom do you believe, Clinton or Bush? The 9/11 Commission report, which was released yesterday, features the following two disputes:

Dispute No. 1, between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush: "Clinton recalled saying to Bush, 'I think you will find that by far your biggest threat is bin Laden and the al Qaeda' . . . Bush told the commission he felt sure President Clinton had mentioned terrorism, but did not remember much being said about al Qaeda. Bush recalled that Clinton had emphasized other issues, such as North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."

Dispute No. 2 is between Samuel Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, and Condoleezza Rice of the Bush administration. "In early January," the report says, "Berger met with Rice. He says he told her the Bush administration would spend more time on terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular than on anything else. Rice's recollection was that Berger told her she would be surprised at how much more time she was going to spend on terrorism than she expected, but that the bulk of their conversation dealt with the faltering Middle East peace process and North Korea."
Podhoretz argues for the Bush / Rice version:

I think there's a reason why an honest liberal Bush-hater could conclude that Clinton and Berger are lying. We know that at the time they were supposedly telling their replacements that terrorism was the world's No. 1 problem, Clinton and Berger were making a last-ditch effort to save the deal worked out at Camp David between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We know what was preoccupying them right then and there. It wasn't terrorism. It wasn't al Qaeda. It was the Middle East peace process. That jibes with what Bush and Rice told the 9/11 commissioners. It doesn't jibe with what Clinton and Berger told the commissioners.