Richard A. Clarke is a disgruntled former employee with close ties to the Kerry campaign who penned a book critical of President Bush after failing to secure a top position within the Homeland Security Department, the White House and Republican officials said yesterday.
Mr. Clarke, the former counterterrorism coordinator who had sought the No. 2 spot at Homeland Security, was passed over for the post in October 2002 and demoted by Secretary Tom Ridge and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to the position of special adviser for cyberspace security.
In February 2003, he left the Bush administration and, a few months later, sold a book proposal to Simon & Schuster, owned by the corporation that also owns CBS, whose “60 Minutes” show first aired Mr. Clarke’s accusations about the Iraq war and the administration’s record on terror.
“Mr. Clarke has been out there talking about what title he had,” Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday. “He wanted to be the deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department after it was created. The fact of the matter is, just a few months after that, he left the administration. He did not get that position. Someone else was appointed to it.”
Vice President Dick Cheney echoed that view, telling Rush Limbaugh in a telephone call to the national radio show that Mr. Clarke “may have a grudge to bear there since he probably wanted a more prominent position than [Miss Rice]was prepared to give him.”
Senior White House officials and the chief Bush spokesman said Mr. Clarke’s motivation appears to be both political and self-serving.
“Look at the timing,” Mr. McClellan said. “He is bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign, he has written a book, and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book.”
Dan Bartlett, assistant to the president and head of the White House Communications Office, noted that the book was planned for release in April but moved up to yesterday after Mr. Clarke “asked our people to finish the clearance process so they could do it.”
“Coincidentally, he moved up his release date to coincide with his testimony before the 9/11 commission,” Mr. Bartlett said.
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States turns its attention today to the accountability of top government officials in two days of public hearings on counterterrorism.
Mr. Clarke is scheduled to testify, along with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, CIA Director George J. Tenet and top national-security officials from the Clinton administration.
Mr. Clarke’s book, “Against All Enemies,” accuses the Bush administration of, among other things, ignoring warnings about al Qaeda before September 11, 2001; of trying to blame Saddam Hussein for the terrorist attacks even before the evidence was presented; and of looking to invade Iraq from the day it took office.
In an interview last night on PBS’ “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” Mr. Clarke said the timing of the book’s release during the presidential campaign and near the September 11 commission’s hearings was not his fault.
“This book would have come out three months earlier if the White House hadn’t taken three months to clear it,” he said. “It sat in the White House for three months or else it would have been out earlier.”