Friday, September 22, 2006

Bill Clinton Hits Back Against 'Path To 9/11' Spin

Former President Bill Clinton taped an interview for Fox News' Sunday show, hosted by Chris Wallace. Blogger Atrios wrote earlier today that "Apparently Wallace had promised that the first half of the interview would be about the Clinton Global Initiative [which is raising billions of $$ to deal with global crises such as poverty and AIDS], but he broke that promise and for his second question he said something along the lines of 'what my viewers want to know most is why you didn't do more about terrorism and Osama Bin Laden'." That's how it went it down indeed, and an early transcript indicates ol' Bubba came out swinging.

From the transcript-
Clinton: Let's talk about it. I will answer all those things on the merits, but first I want to talk about the context in which this arises. I'm being asked this on the FOX network. ABC just had a right-wing conservative running their little pathway to 9/11, falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 commission report with three things asserted against me directly contradictory to the 9/11 commission report. And I think it's very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say I didn't do enough claim that I was too obsessed with bin Laden.

All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said that I did too much. Same people. They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in Black Hawk Down and I refused to do it and stayed six months and had an orderly transfer to the United Nations...

......

Wallace: .. bin Laden says, but it showed the weakness of the United States.

Clinton: Bin Laden may have said it -- but it would have shown the weakness if we left right away. But he wasn't involved in that, that's just a bunch of bull. That was about Muhammad Aidid, a Muslim warlord, murdering 22 Pakistani Muslim troops. We were all there on a humanitarian mission; we had no mission, none, to establish a certain kind of Somali government or keep anybody out. He was not a religious fanatic ...

Wallace: Mr. President ...

Clinton: ... there was no al-Qaeda ...

......

No, no -- I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill [bin Laden]. The CIA was run by George Tenet that President (Bush) gave the medal of freedom to, and he said he did a good job setting up all these counter-terrorism things. The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came there.

Now if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: after the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan -- which we got after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible. While I was there, they refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred special forces in in helicopters, refuel at night. Even the 9/11 commission didn't do that.

Now, the 9/11 commission was a political document, too. All I'm asking is, anybody that wants to say I didn't do enough, you read Richard Clarke's book ...

Wallace: Do you think you did enough, sir?

Clinton: No, because I didn't get him.

Wallace: Right.

Clinton: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clark, who got demoted.

So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know... I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked why didn’t you do anything about the Cole. I want to know how many you asked why did you fire Dick Clarke... Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch is going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers for supporting my work on Climate Change. And you came here under false pretenses and said that you’d spend half the time talking about…

WALLACE: [laughs]

CLINTON: You said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion dollars plus over three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care.

Full transcript of the whole interview- here (more on the Fox News spin here and here)

He also has some great things to say on the midterms and the Republican's use of fear.

Also: Bill Clinton speaks with Keith Olbermann on his Global Initiative.

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