Empty Days

Thursday, March 25, 2004



It's kinda hard to make sense of this whole Richard Clarke debate at the moment. I mean, I don't find it abnormal that vast numbers of people are trying to question his credibility - that would be my first question too, since it's kinda important that devastating arguments should not have ulterior motives undermining their impact.

Obvious, no? Right. The problem is that detractors are too keen on throwing mud at whatever doesn't sit well with them, so there is nothing one can learn from them except that they're so upset etc. But this review of Clarke's possible motives sounds pretty balanced and, pending further notice, I guess I'd go with that as a guiding light amidst raging chaos:
The key thing, though, is this: Both sets of traits tell me he's too shrewd to write or say anything in public that might be decisively refuted. As Daniel Benjamin, another terrorism specialist who worked alongside Clarke in the Clinton White House, put it in a phone conversation today, "Dick did not survive and flourish in the bureaucracy all those years by leaving himself open to attack."
What rings especially true about Clarke's insistence that Bush's gang was as lame as lame could be pre-9/11 is that I distinctly remember how they were so off-everything in "peacetime". I mean, here you had a Bush-I administration reassembled, all war-like and everything, and they just had nothing to do! Their main gist was turning away from foreign-policy concerns to reduce taxes - remember?

That's what was so peculiarly upsetting about Bush and Co, that they were so kin to throw overboard all the stuff Clinton was good about - excellent relations with "the rest of the west" etc. And then WTC came and everything changed - finally they had a perfect environment to exercise their militaristic streak. In a way, Bush was lucky that it came on his watch - what a darn lucky guy!

What Clarke does is that he reminds Amerika of what Bush was really like when he came in. That he was a provincially-minded nitwit and didn't hide it. And that he's used 9/11 to his own nitwit advantage ever since. People are so traumatized they forgot that. And it's a hard and ungrateful task to remind a whole country that it's been had.

Clarke may be a bureaucrat and a wily guy, but he's got the proper guts and the proper sense of duty and enough personal anger to take the heat when it counts. Hail the bureaucrat.

***

Yesterday on Jim Lehrer NewsHour (PBS), some members of the 9/11 commission were interviewed. One particularly sensible comment was: US can no longer afford to indulge in very long transition periods between administrations - everything comes to a full-stop and the gov effectively becomes non-functional for months on end. This has to change and the commission is gonna make it clear in their report.

Good thinking.





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