- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

A former Democratic colleague of Richard A. Clarke yesterday disputed the former White House analyst’s accusations that President Bush was not sufficiently focused on terrorism before the September 11 attacks.

“I’m uncomfortable with the charge that somehow the Bush people ignored or didn’t treat in a serious way the fact that this country was under major threat from terrorist organizations,” said Coit Blacker, a former National Security Council (NSC) official who was special assistant to President Clinton.

“I just don’t think that’s right,” Mr. Blacker said. “They may not have been sufficiently attentive to what Dick thought they needed to know, but that’s not the same thing as taking a cavalier attitude toward the threat.”

Mr. Blacker, director of the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, declined to question the credibility of Mr. Clarke, a counterterrorism adviser to Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush.

“Dick passionately believes in what he says,” Mr. Blacker said. “I tend to be more charitable towards the Bush folks.”

NSC spokesman Sean McCormack, who was with Mr. Clarke in the White House Situation Room the day after the terrorist attacks, yesterday disputed several passages in Mr. Clarke’s book describing the events that transpired in that room.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, questioned Mr. Clarke’s motives and the apparent disconnect between his earlier statements and what he has said while promoting his book.

“Mr. Clarke resigned January 20th not of 2004, but 2003. Why did these allegations just appear last week for the first time, that is at about the same time he signed a multimillion-dollar contract or a book deal that will bring multimillion dollars to him? Just simply asking the question,” Mr. Frist said.

After a week of scattered Democratic responses to such accusations, several lawmakers on Capitol Hill yesterday made a coordinated defense of Mr. Clarke.

“The all-out assault on Richard Clarke has gone on for more than a week now. Mr. Clarke has been accused of ‘profiteering’ and possible perjury. It is time for this to stop,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, on the chamber floor.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Mr. Clarke “was the person America turned to on September 11, when we faced the greatest danger and chaos of modern time.”

“He was the one at the controls in the White House, in the Situation Room, trying to bring some sense to the confusion,” Mr. Durbin said.

And Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, called Mr. Clarke “a principled man,” and said that when he met Mr. Clarke during the Clinton administration, the latter had said he was a registered Republican.

“Dick Clarke’s book is not aimed at political retribution. Dick Clarke’s book is aimed at the truth. And like everywhere else, the Scriptures are right, the truth will set us free,” Mr. Schumer said.

But House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said the administration had to go after Mr. Clarke’s credibility and motives because news reports gave him more credibility than he deserved.

“The national media didn’t ignore Clarke like they should have. He has no credibility in my mind, and I think the White House did exactly what they should have done and showed Richard Clarke for what he was — a disgruntled employee who didn’t get what he wanted,” Mr. DeLay told reporters yesterday.

“This whole issue, frankly — and I’ve been home, I’ve been around the country — is a sideshow,” he added. “It’s a sideshow to divert our attention from the war on terror and divert the president’s attention from the war on terror. And it hasn’t worked.”

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