- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2004

A curious exchange

Bush White House critic Richard Clarke recounts a curious exchange with President Bush after the September 11 terrorist attacks in his new book, “Against all Enemies” — an exchange he somehow forgot to mention in testimony to a commission investigating the attacks.

Complete with direct quotes from Mr. Bush in a private conversation, Mr. Clarke, a former antiterrorism adviser, portrays a president “fixated on Iraq and indifferent to al Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said yesterday on “This Week.”

“Mr. Clarke has already given 14 hours of testimony to the commission investigating why the government failed to prevent those attacks,” said Mr. Stephanopoulos, also noting that Mr. Clarke now works for ABC as a consultant.

“His book includes an exchange with President Bush that Clarke did not divulge to the commission,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said.

Mr. Clarke quotes the president as saying, “Look, I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Mr. Clarke responds: “But Mr. President, al Qaeda did this.”

The president: “I know, I know. But see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.”

Mr. Clarke: “Absolutely. We will look again. But you know we’ve looked several times for state sponsorship of al Qaeda and not found any real linkages to Iraq. Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Yemen.”

The president: “Look into Iraq. Saddam.”

A White House official tells Newsweek that Mr. Bush has “no specific recollection” of the conversation described by Mr. Clark and that records show the president was not in the Situation Room at the time Mr. Clarke recalls.

“His book might be called ‘If Only They Had Listened to Dick Clarke,’” an administration official told the magazine.

“Clarke is perhaps not the most neutral source,” Newsweek said. “Last year Clarke’s best friend, Rand Beers, quit as the White House’s counterterrorism chief after complaining — over glasses of wine on Clarke’s front porch — about the wrong-headedness of Bush’s plan to invade Iraq. Beers is now a principal foreign-policy adviser to [Democratic candidate John] Kerry.”

Kerry’s tenor

“The Kerry campaign so far hasn’t elevated much above the tenor or level at which the Democratic presidential contenders politicked for nearly a year,” Wall Street Journal editorialist Daniel Henninger writes.

“Then as now, Mr. Kerry suggests there is nothing in the Bush presidency — not one moment, utterance or act since George Bush took the oath of office — that does not deserve to be opposed and reversed,” Mr. Henninger said.

“This total, rejectionist stance is relatively new in American politics. The conventional explanation is that the Democrats’ constituencies demand it, but that’s been true for 25 years. The deeper reason is younger than that. It flows directly from Democratic anger over the outcome of the Florida legal challenge in 2000. For Democrats, it remains the fire that can never be extinguished. They are set against the Bush presidency in its totality — its policies, its personalities, its existence. Like Irish nationalists, Democrats harbor Florida as the event they will never forgive, and it has had the effect of turning American politics into a kind of Northern Ireland.

“In his firefighters speech (which is at www.johnkerry.com and deserves to be read in its entirety), Sen. Kerry said: ‘This administration has put a tax giveaway for the very wealthiest of our nation over making sure that we do all that we can to win the war on terror here at home. … America doesn’t need leaders who play politics with 9/11 or see the war on terror as just another campaign issue.’

“This is a serious charge. It clearly is accusing George Bush of acting in bad faith every day since the towers fell and an airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. Not everyone needs to love George Bush, but delegitimizing America’s 2-year effort against terrorism is a dangerous game. For my money, the presidential debates can’t come fast enough.”

Actor aids dad

Actor George Clooney helped raise about $140,000 Saturday at private fund-raisers for his father’s congressional campaign in Kentucky.

Nick Clooney, a longtime Cincinnati television personality, is the lone Democratic candidate for the 4th District seat of retiring Rep. Ken Lucas, a Democrat.

George Clooney spoke briefly at two events in northern Kentucky, but stayed away from making political statements. Instead, he talked about his father and how he wanted to help him with the election, the Associated Press reports.

“It’s great having my son come in to help,” Nick Clooney said. “It’s family. When my son and my daughter show up and help me, it means a lot and it shows me this is more than just politics. We still matter to one another.”

About 150 people paid $250 each to mingle with the actor at the Oriental Wok, a restaurant in Fort Mitchell. In another fund-raiser, about 100 people paid $1,000 each to see the actor at a private home.

Undeterred woman

Gennifer Flowers plans to appeal the dismissal of her lawsuit against two former advisers to Bill Clinton, saying the judge in the case did not fairly consider it.

“I may just run a little picket line outside the courthouse, because I’m not going to be treated that way,” Miss Flowers told the Times-Picayune of New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro ruled March 8 that there was no “clear and convincing evidence” that James Carville and George Stephanopoulos acted with malice when they suggested that the audiotapes Miss Flowers used to try to prove she and Mr. Clinton had an affair had been doctored.

Her lawsuit sought unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. It was filed for her in 1999 by Judicial Watch, a public-interest legal group.

An attorney for Mr. Carville has said the case was frivolous and politically motivated.

The dispute dates to the 1992 presidential campaign, when Miss Flowers said she had a 12-year affair with the Arkansas governor, the Associated Press notes. Mr. Clinton eventually acknowledged a single sexual encounter with Miss Flowers.

Unusual honor

Sandra Day O’Connor is an influential jurist, best-selling author, accomplished horsewoman, even a hole-in-one golfer. But an “Arrid Total Woman”?

Yes, Arrid, as in deodorant.

Mrs. O’Connor is one of 10 women chosen as “Arrid Total Women of Today” and pictured on a series of trading cards, the Associated Press reports. The company is underwriting the project, which includes $18,000 in scholarships along with educational materials distributed to high schools for Women’s History Month in March.

The Women’s Museum in Dallas helped select the honorees, who also include Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican, and Southwest Airlines President Colleen Barrett.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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