- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

"I've been traveling around our country for a year and no one cares about foreign policy other than about six journalists."

President-elect Bill Clinton, to Rep. Lee Hamilton of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 1992

Did someone say something about a memo surfacing? I'm waiting for a White House memo to surface, circa 1999, addressed to al Qaeda and reading: Could you wait 'til I'm out of office?

We elected a schmoozer president to lead the free world twice. We didn't care that he didn't comprehend foreign policy and simply adjusted reality to his and our limited understanding of the world, muddying the lines between enemy and ally, and conducting affairs as though the United States had none of the former. In fact, in the 1990s the very application of the word "enemy" invited mockery.

To wit, those six-day-a-week briefings by a CIA senior analyst that President Bush began to studiously undergo practically from his first day in office were declined altogether by his predecessor, who had said he didn't need them. Was this even news? Not to a public that didn't know the difference. Nor was the fact that Mr. Clinton never bothered to meet with James Woolsey when the latter was the nation's intelligence chief.

Maybe Hillary will think twice the next time she wants to assign blame or at least once. If Enron and the failed fund-raiser-photo-scandal haven't proved it already, perhaps now she can finally learn that Mr. Bush really is the rubber and her husband the glue: Whatever you say bounces off Mr. Bush and sticks to you. How many more embarrassments before we can finally come to know her as the Mute Senator? She'll sound smarter than ever.

But back to the Democracy of Dunces that doomed itself by making this pair into a force in national politics. I recall a USA Today headline weeks after September 11, reading "WTC Widows: A Quiet Fury." Not at the perpetrators, the article explained, but at our security apparatus. The article went on to attribute a common sentiment to the women: "I thought it couldn't happen here." Presumably these women had already been born by 1993, the last time it happened here.

What about the 1997 plan by two Hamas wannabes to blow up New York subway lines? They were getting daily explosive deliveries by truck to a Brooklyn shack in plain sight of police. The only thing that prevented the attack and only a day or two before its planned execution was a hapless, recently arrived, non-English-speaking house guest at the shack, who flagged down a reluctant police officer, gesticulating wildly while making explosion-like noises with his mouth.

And what about the foiled plot to blow up New York bridges and tunnels on New Year's Eve, 1999? Foiled by some intelligence personnel who were accidentally working in the 1990s, apparently unaware that Bill Clinton was president.

I can't be the only one who recalls the nearly monthly TV specials throughout the 1990s profiling terror cells within the United States and terror camps around the world showing the recruitment and rigorous daily training of Islamic militants. Was any of this registering? People focused on, committed to and existing for the sake of wreaking havoc? Did Americans assume there was no method to these people's madness? That it just gave them something to do? That there would be no fruit to their labor, no target of their toil? Or did we think the target was somewhere on Pluto?

Thank God for letting the presidency fall into Republican hands. For anyone who is still under the illusion that the world took us seriously during the Clinton years, let September 11 be a lesson.

In the day in those peaceful and prosperous Clinton years did anyone even notice, and did our media point out, that our president didn't bother to visit the World Trade Center after it was attacked the first time? The biggest military stories of the era were about gays and berets. Until one day I woke up and heard that we were bombing Belgrade. Belgrade

That was the day that Maddy and Bill finally found a use for our Army to defend terrorists against the sovereign state where they were operating. The nature of the media's foreign policy questions then: "How many troops are we deploying, Sir? And what will they be having for dinner?"

On that day, Madame Secretary went shopping for groceries. On another day, she found out her State Department was crawling with spies posing as photographers and journalists, and responded by joking, "OK, raise your hand if you're a spy."

Yet today we have to hear Dan Rather accuse the press of being too "timid" with the Bush administration for fear, according to Mr. Rather, of seeming unpatriotic.

When the danger was in the unasked questions; when the White House Press Corps reached satirical levels with tough questions like "Mr. President, why do you think people are so against you?" when our reporters were bringing back countless war stories from KLA relatives and sympathizers but none from the people we attacked when a president sent the U.S. Army to fight alongside al Qaeda and the mission needed to be questioned, there wasn't a peep from this critic. When national and international politics were in a state of disarray to the point of high comedy, when the scandals and cover-ups were too numerous to keep track of, the press went on vacation.

Now that the grown-ups are back to town, the snooze is over and the press is sharpening its talons. After a conspicuous eight-year absence, the old adage has returned: "The public has a right to know." Yet while the groundwork for today's chaos was being laid, the public didn't want to know. And the media didn't want to ask. Gee, things were so much more peaceful under the Democrat. Now we know why.

Julia Gorin is a columnist living in New York and a contributing editor to JewishWorldReview.com.

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