Monday, March 29, 2004

Sounds like ... a man with nothing to hide: Clarke calls for declassification

I.
A MAN WITH NOTHING TO HIDE,


MSNBC reports that on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning Clarke calls for declassifying his own testimony:

***
Richard Clarke, the former chief counterterrorism adviser at the White House, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that he “would welcome” the attempt by leading Republicans to declassify his two-year-old testimony before Congress.

Clarke, who has criticized the Bush administration’s preparedness for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also said Rice’s private testimony before the commission should be declassified, as well as e-mails, memos and all other correspondence between Rice and Clarke.

Let’s declassify all of it,” Clarke said to NBC's Tim Russert, moderator of the program, “ ... because the victims' families have no idea what Dr. Rice has said. There weren't in those closed hearings where she testified before the 9-11 Commission. They want to know.
[emphasis added]
***

II.
LIES, DAMNED LIES


To the oldman, it sounds like Clarke is a man with nothing to hide. Clarke isn't exactly objective, but as Kevin Drum points out he had good reason to be bitter. The White House on the other hand, can't seem to get it's story straight. As the NYT reports, the WH admits that Bush pressed aide over Alqueda link to Iraq early after 911:

***
The White House acknowledged Sunday that on the day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush asked his top counterterrorism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, to find out whether Iraq was involved.

Mr. Bush wanted to know "did Iraq have anything to do with this? Were they complicit in it?" Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, recounted in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes."

Mr. Bush was not trying to intimidate anyone to "produce information," she said. Rather, given the United States' "actively hostile relationship" with Iraq at the time, he was asking Mr. Clarke "a perfectly logical question," Ms. Rice said.

The conversation — which the White House suggested last week had never taken place — centers on perhaps the most volatile charge Mr. Clarke has made public in recent days: that the Bush White House became fixated on Iraq and Saddam Hussein at the expense of focusing on Al Qaeda.
[emphasis added]
***

III.
WORSE THAN A CRIME, SHADES OF TALLEYRAND


So after initially denying the story, and then finding out that there are on the record witnesses to that discussion, the WH has to retract its denial. In addition, Talking Points Memo discusses how Condi Rice continues to refuse testifying under oath even as the WH accusation about perjury seems to have been a bluff that has been called.

***
The White House can be a very isolated and isolating environment -- especially on the downward side of the mountain. And I think this is a large part of what we're seeing. Many of the challenges they've faced over the last two or three months are ones they might easily have weathered as recently as eight or nine months ago. And they keep reacting as though they have little grasp of how much the ground has moved beneath their feet during those intervening months.

One other point. We certainly don't know yet. But I think the early signs are that this perjury attack on Clarke was a major, major blunder. I don't think the perpetrators of this ugly stunt even thought they'd ever get into a courtroom. That wasn't the point: this was watercooler ammo. Something you get on to the news so that when Mr. X asks Mr. Y over the watercooler what he makes of Clarke's testimony, Mr. Y responds, "Hell, that guy? He's probably gonna indicted for perjury. You can't believe anything that guy says." ...

This was a very high stakes bluff, not least because it looked like the worst sort of Nixonian tactic, using the coercive machinery of the state to bludgeon political opponents. But if they were going to play hardball at this level, they should have been certain they had him dead to rights. And it seems like they didn't. Now even a number of partisan Republicans I know feel like this looked ugly and wrong. To use they Napoleonic aphorism again: this was worse than a crime. It was a mistake.
[emphasis added]
***

The saying that a mistake is worse than a crime is attributed to: a statement that Napoleon's foreign minister Talleyrand made after Napoleon ordered the execution of a young duke of the Bourbon family: "Sire, it is worse than a crime, it is a mistake."

According to the source cited, in March 1804, Napoleon, after having heard erroneous reports that Bourbon Duke Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Cande was part of a plot to overthrow him, had the duke summarily executed. Napoleon received much criticism at home and abroad for having executed an innocent man.

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