- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Just a few days ago, Democrats on Capitol Hill seemed quite eager to make political hay out of news reports suggesting that President Bush might have known in advance about the September 11 attacks. Prominent Democrats like Sens. Tom Daschle, Hillary Rodham Clinton and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt have loudly demanded investigations into what the administration knew about the possibility that terrorists were preparing to attack the United States.
By Sunday, however, some of the harshest Democratic critics were clearly having second thoughts about such a brazen attempt to use September 11 to score political points against Mr. Bush. "I never, ever thought that anybody, including the president, did anything up to September 11 other than their best," Mr. Gephardt said. This is a politically prudent move on Mr. Gephardt's part. Given the abysmal performance of the Clinton administration in combatting terrorism during the 1990s, it would be a huge mistake for Democrats to attempt to gain political mileage by blaming September 11 on President Bush.
Time and time again, the Clinton White House tried to avoid taking firm steps against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that have targeted the United States. As David Horowitz noted on The Washington Times' op-ed page yesterday, the Clinton administration did nothing in response to al Qaeda's February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, in which six persons were killed and nearly 1,000 wounded. Moreover, President Clinton and his aides sought to play down the fact that the mastermind of the attack was Ramzi Youssef, an Iraqi intelligence agent. Journalist Andrew Sullivan quotes Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos as saying that the Clinton administration ignored the implications of the WTC attack because "it wasn't a successful bombing."
Nine months later in Somalia, Mohammed Farah Aideed's militiamen, who were trained by al Qaeda, killed 18 American soldiers and dragged their bodies through the streets of Mogadishu. Mr. Clinton's response was to end the U.S.-led humanitarian mission in Somalia and send veteran diplomat Robert Oakley to negotiate surrender terms. In June 1996, 19 American servicemen were killed when al Qaeda joined forces with the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah to bomb the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis refused to cooperate with FBI agents sent to investigate the matter, so Washington just forgot about it. Mr. Sullivan notes that in October, a former Clinton administration official told The Washington Post that, had Mr. Clinton made a serious effort to rein in al Qaeda then, "We probably would have never seen a September 11."
In 1998, as Mr. Clinton was preparing to inform the nation of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, al Qaeda killed 224 persons in bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. So Mr. Clinton responded by firing 75 missiles at suspected bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan (bin Laden escaped unharmed) and mistakenly destroying a "nerve gas factory" in Khartoum which was actually making pharmaceutical products. Two years later, the United States did nothing of consequence in response to the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, in which 17 Americans died. "Clearly, not enough was done" to combat terrorism during the Clinton years, former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick acknowledged shortly after the September 11 attacks. Mrs. Gorelick added that even though President Clinton doubled the size of the FBI's counterterrorism budget, the bureau was so slow to hire agents that the money was never used.
As for Mrs. Clinton, investigative journalist Steven Emerson notes that she and her husband "repeatedly wined and dined at the White House" members of the American Muslim Council (AMC), including Abdulrahman Alamoudi, an apologist for Hamas who has repeatedly denied it is a terrorist group. The AMC, Mr. Emerson adds, provided talking points for Mrs. Clinton's syndicated newspaper column and speeches and was even permitted to organize a reception for itself at the White House. In short, the Democrats are in no position to smear Mr. Bush on September 11 or terrorism in general.


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