Patterico's Pontifications


Clinton Did Not Think Terrorism Was the Top Issue Before Sept. 11, 2001

Filed under: Terrorism — Patterico @ 1:07 pm

Dick Clarke has asserted that the Clinton administration had no higher priority than fighting terrorism. I would like to point you to a speech that Bill Clinton made on November 7, 2001, which belies Clarke’s assertion. Clinton says that he didn’t think that terrorism was the most significant issue facing the world before September 11. Pay particular attention to the parts of the speech that I have highlighted in bold text:

Imagine yourself on September the 10th. Nothing’s happened on September 11th. Try to remember how you viewed the world on September 10th. If I had asked you on that day, “What is the single most dominant element of the 21st Century world,” what would your answer have been? What would you have said? Since you’re living here and we’ve been doing reasonable well the last few years, I can think of one of four answers you might have given if you’re a positive sort of person. You might have said, “Well, the global economy.” The globalization of the economy is the most dominant element because it’s made America 22 and a half million jobs and it’s lifted more people out of poverty in the last thirty years than were ever lifted out in all of human history. Or you might have said, “No, it’s the information technology revolution because that’s what’s given us all the productivity that has driven the economic growth.” When I became president in January of ’93 there were only fifty sites on the worldwide web. When I left office there were 350 million. In eight years. Today, before the Anthrax scare, there were thirty times as many messages transmitted by email as the postal services every day in America. Or you might have said, “Oh, no, as impressive as those things are, the most significant thing about the early 21st century will be the advances in biological sciences.” It will rival the significance of the discovery of DNA. It will rival the significance of Newtonian physics. We sequenced the human genome; we’re developing microscopic testing mechanisms. Soon we’ll be able to identify cancers when they’re just a few cells in size. Soon we’ll be able to give young mothers gene cards to take home with their newborn babies and in countries with good health systems, children will have life expectancies in excess of ninety years. Or you might have said, if you’re like me and you’re into politics and this kind of thing, you might have said, “No, the most important thing about the modern world is the growth of democracy and diversity, because that is the environment within which all the economic growth, all the technological growth, and all the scientific advances flourish best. I was honored to be president at the first time in history when more than half the world’s people lived under governments of their own choosing, and when America, as witnessed by your presence here today, and other advanced countries became far more diverse racially, ethnically, and religiously than ever before, and the societies were actually working, and working better, and I might add, a lot more interesting because of our diversity. So, you could have said any of that.

Clinton goes on to say that a “negative person” might have answered differently:

On the other hand, if you live in a poor country or you are more pessimistic you might have answered one of four negative things. You could have said, “No, no, you got it wrong about the economy. Global poverty will dominate the early 21st century because half the world’s people aren’t in this global economy.” They live on less than two dollars a day, a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, a billion and a half people never get a clean glass of water, and one woman dies every minute in childbirth. And that’s a recipe for explosion, and that will dominate the world. Or you might have said, “No, before that happens, the environmental crises will consume us. The shortage of water, the deterioration of the oceans from which we get our oxygen, and most of all global warming. If the earth warms for the next 50 years at the rate of the last ten, we’ll lose fifty feet of Manhattan Island. The Florida Everglades I worked so hard to save. Whole Pacific Island nations will be flooded, and tens of millions of food refugees will be created, destabilizing governments and causing violence. Or you could have said, “Well, no, before global warming gets us the epidemics will. All over the world public health systems are crashing down, and just to take AIDS as an example, there are now over 36 million AIDS cases, 22 million people have already died. If we don’t turn the trend around there will be 100 million AIDS cases in five years, making it the worst epidemic since the Plague swept Europe in the 14th century and killed one in four people. And the fastest growing rates are in the former Soviet Union on Europe’s back door, and the second fastest growing rates are in the Caribbean on our front door, and the third fastest growing rates are in India, the biggest democracy in the world. And the Chinese just admitted they had twice as many cases as they had previously thought, and only four percent of the adults in our biggest nation know how AIDS is contracted and spread. So today, two thirds of the cases are in Africa. Tomorrow, it’s everybody’s problem, unless we turn it around. Or you might have said even on September the 10th, if you’d been keeping up with this, “No, no, no, even before the health crises. We will be consumed by terrorism, by the marriage of modern weapons of destruction to ancient racial, religious and tribal hatreds.”

There you have it. According to Clinton, before September 11, there were eight issues that a person might have thought were the most significant issues facing the world. Clinton describes “the growth of democracy and diversity” as the issue that he would have chosen as most significant. Terrorism is the last item listed, and is described as an issue that only a “negative person” would have focused on.

Clinton goes on to suggest that terrorism is part of the price we pay for global interdependence, with a tone that implies that there is not much we can do about it:

I honestly believe it’s very important if you want to understand the world in which you live that you see September the 11th as the dark side from all the benefits we’ve gotten from tearing down the walls, collapsing the distances and spreading the information that we have across the world. We have not changed human nature, we have not solved all the problems, and there are a lot of people that see the world differently than we do. You cannot collapse walls, collapse differences and spread information without making yourself more vulnerable to forces of destruction. You cannot claim the benefits of this new world without becoming more vulnerable at home.

At the time Clinton gave this speech, many people focused on another statement in the speech: “This country once looked the other way when significant numbers of Native Americans were dispossessed and killed to get their land or their mineral rights or because they were thought of as less than fully human and we are still paying the price today.” Many were so focused on what they saw as Clinton’s equation of September 11 with our treatment of American Indians, that they lost sight of the other aspects of the speech.

I think that the speech has much more to tell us about Bill Clinton: namely, that he saw terror as an inevitable by-product of globalization. Therefore, he treated terror as a fairly low priority for his administration.

Dick Clarke’s case just got even worse.

P.S. Clinton’s speech is not too bad, overall. Some of his points are valid. But it is not the speech of someone who made terrorism his Number One Priority.

UPDATE: Thanks to David Adesnik at Oxblog for helping to get the word out.

Retaliacrats™ Issue New Threat

Filed under: Judiciary — Patterico @ 12:15 pm

The Retaliacrats™ have issued another threat to President Bush:

Senate Democrats, turning up the heat in their long-simmering feud with President Bush over judicial nominations, vowed on Friday to block all new federal court appointments unless the White House promises to stop installing judges while Congress is in recess.

I say call them on it. The first day Congress goes into recess, everyone who has been filibustered gets a recess appointment.

When are the Republicans in the Senate finally going to muster the guts to put a stop to this?

UPDATE: Captain Ed has a thoughtful post on the issue.

UPDATE x2: Pejmanesque has more good analysis:

So in effect, Daschle and the Democrats are threatening to completely obstruct any and all further judicial nominations unless President Bush promises not to exercise one of his constitutional powers–a power that would never have had to have been exercised in the first place had the Senate done its duty from the beginning, and given judicial nominees an up or down vote in a timely fashion.

This is not going to play well. But Bush has to have the guts to call them on it, and the Republicans in the Senate have to have the guts to follow through.

Leftist Viewpoints on Patterico Upsetting to Critics (and Some and Many)

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Patterico @ 11:51 am

I should say provocative, leftist things more often (as I did in the post immediately below). I get more feedback this way. Of course, it’s all negative.

I started typing a response in the comments to the post below, but I have enough to say in response that I think it merits a new post.


Where the Bushies Are Wrong on Clarke and Terrorism

Filed under: Politics — Patterico @ 9:48 pm

A friend, who is a critic of Bush (and that’s putting it mildly), e-mails me with several criticisms of the Administration’s response to Clarke’s allegations, as well as other comments. My friend has a couple of good points, and I should acknowledge them.

  • Cheney’s statement that Clarke was “out of the loop” was suspicious when he said it. As it turns out, it doesn’t appear to have been true, according to Condi Rice. Assume it was true. What sense would it make to keep your top terrorism guy out of the loop? That was a stupid and incredible thing for Cheney to say.
  • Bush’s recent skit, in which he pretended to be looking for WMD under his desk and such, was embarrassing. I know that Presidents are supposed to poke fun at themselves at the Press Club dinners, but there’s nothing funny about the issue. The issue of WMD (and Saddam’s thumbing his nose at the UN over them) is why I reluctantly supported the war. Now American soldiers have died, and we haven’t found WMD. It is not a laughing matter.

    Not funny, Mr. President.

  • Krauthammer on Clarke

    Filed under: Terrorism — Patterico @ 6:52 pm

    Charles Krauthammer has more reasons to doubt Dick “Dick” Clarke’s credibility. (Via Prestopundit.)

    According to Krauthammer, in 2002, an interviewer

    asked Clarke whether failing to blow up the camps and take out the Afghan sanctuary 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.”

    As Krauthammer points out, this is a direct contradiction of Clarke’s later claim that the Clinton administration had no higher priority than fighting terrorism. As Krauthammer notes,

    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.

    Yup. I put witnesses on the stand for a living. I sure wouldn’t want to put this guy on as a witness. His credibility is shot.

    UPDATE: Rich Lowry has a good article as well. (Via Captain Ed.)

    Rivenburg Criticized by Liberal Bloggers for Teaching Writing Class

    Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 7:01 am

    Kevin Roderick reports that L.A. Times feature writer Roy Rivenburg is catching some flack for being suspiciously non-liberal.


    Dick Clarke: Not Credible

    Filed under: Current Events — Patterico @ 7:53 pm

    I have had more than one person ask me what I think of Dick Clarke. I can’t express it any better than the author of this TIME article did. (Via Daily Pundit.)


    Decent Washington Post Editorial

    Filed under: Terrorism — Patterico @ 11:03 pm

    Read this editorial. Good stuff.

    Madeleine Albright: The Expert on Not Upsetting Arabs

    Filed under: Morons,Terrorism — Patterico @ 10:13 pm

    I have to admit that I am bitterly amused to see Madeleine Albright’s statement to the 9/11 Commission suggesting that President Bush has been responsible for inciting anti-American sentiment among Arabs:

    This statement is not the place to debate the wisdom of going to war in Iraq at the time we did with the support we had. It is worth noting, however, that before the war the president predicted that the terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.

    After the war, he admitted that Iraq has become the central front in the war against terror. According to one terrorism specialist for the Congressional Research Service, Iraq is a rallying cause for al-Qaeda its allowed them to attract new recruits. This was an organization that was under enormous pressure. Iraq has put new wind in its sails, definitely.

    . . . .

    I have found widespread dismay in many corners of the world at the Bush Administrations decision to detain hundreds of people in Guantanamo for more than two years without trial, access to legal assistance or any specific charges being made against them. No other aspect of our policy has done as much to squander support for the United States and to create doubts about our commitment to our own ideals.

    It is possible and perhaps probable that anger over these detentions has helped bin Laden succeed in recruiting more new operatives than the number of suspects now being held.

    It is “possible and perhaps probable” that no living person in this country, except for perhaps Lesley Stahl, has been more responsible for inciting anti-American sentiment among Arabs than Madeleine Albright.

    To understand why, read this post.

    On the Road Towards Vindication

    Filed under: Court Decisions — Patterico @ 9:16 pm

    Reading through the coverage of the oral argument in the Pledge case today, I am feeling on the road towards vindication. (For good coverage, go to this link at How Appealing and just keep scrolling down.) I predicted yesterday that the standing issue would be the most critical issue on the Justices’ minds, and would occupy a substantial portion of the argument. From what I’ve read, this prediction appears to have proved true, so far.

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