The big news of the last two days seems to be the meltdown of Bill Clinton on Fox News Sunday and the “leaked” details of the National Intelligence Estimate. The Hill has a column by Dick Morris (currently unavailable due to server error) indicating Clinton’s behavior was more the rule than the exception and challenging his assertions that he was awake at the wheel.
Why didn‚Äôt the CIA and FBI realize the extent of bin Laden‚Äôs involvement in terrorism? Because Clinton never took the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center sufficiently seriously. He never visited the site and his only public comment was to caution against ‚Äúover-reaction.‚Äù In his pre-9/11 memoirs, George Stephanopoulos confirms that he and others on the staff saw it as a ‚Äúfailed bombing‚Äù and noted that it was far from topic A at the White House. Rather than the full-court press that the first terror attack on American soil deserved, Clinton let the investigation be handled by the FBI on location in New York without making it the national emergency it actually was.
On the NIE front, the Washington Post might as well have issued a special edition with wall-to-wall NIE coverage. E.J. Dionne uses it to bolster his argument that the protesters of today are no ‘hippie radicals’ and the GOP faces trouble in November.
That is why news over the weekend of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is especially troublesome for Republican electoral chances. By finding that the war in Iraq has encouraged global terrorism and spawned a new generation of Islamic radicals, the report by 16 government intelligence services undercuts the administration’s central argument that the Iraq war has made the United States safer.
Michael Abramowitz and Jonathan Weisman continue the WaPo NIE highlight reel and cover the Democrats use of the report in their electoral strategy.
Democratic lawmakers yesterday seized on elements of a new classified intelligence assessment as validation of their long-standing position that the Iraq war has been a distraction from the broader war against terrorists, seeing the new study as an opportunity to undermine President Bush’s determined offensive to turn terrorism to political advantage in the midterm elections.
What I find interesting about the Democrat tactic is the fact that they’re arguing the Iraq War is a distraction from terrorism, but ignoring the fact that our presence in Afghanistan – widely perceived to be legitimate by comparison – is also fueling the fire. We’re coming under increasing attack in Afghanistan, and that is an ‘approved’ front in the war on terror.
If the difference between the two is our internal comfort level, someone should let the insurgents know they need to lay off in Kabul because our presence has been self-justified.
The Wall Street Journal probably has the best solution. They suggest the government simply declassify the report – allowing for redaction or summary of sensitive information that would reveal sources or methods.
It’s impossible to know how true this report is, of course, since the NIE itself hasn’t been leaked. The reports are based on what sources claim the NIE says, but we don’t know who those sources are and what motivations they might have. Since their spin coincides rather conveniently with the argument made by Democratic critics of the war, and since this leak has also conveniently sprung in high campaign season, wise readers will be skeptical.
Releasing the NIE is probably the best idea. It’s not like most of what’s in the report would be news to anyone.
The whole debate on the NIE is actually a good case study in how to reduce a problem. The argument seems to be whether the bad guys like us less today than they did before we went into Iraq. They had killed 3,000 Americans in one morning before we went into the Middle East – claiming to still be offended by our efforts in Iraq circa 1991 and our continuing presence in Saudi Arabia – but all of that is lost.
The whole discussion has come down to a debate over “degrees of hate”. It’s kind of stupid if you think about it. Does it matter how much they hate us? If they were flying planes into buildings before they really, really hated us, doesn’t that tell us that we are even more justified in trying to eradicate the threat?
I think it does.