- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2006

Former President Bill Clinton angrily defended his administration’s record of combating terrorism and blamed the Bush White House for not taking Osama bin Laden seriously enough before the terrorist attacks of September 11.

“I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans, who now say I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was too obsessed with bin Laden” and the so-called “Wag the Dog” scenario, Mr. Clinton said yesterday during a taped interview with “Fox News Sunday.”

“All of President Bush’s neo-cons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office,” he said in the contentious interview.

Mr. Clinton became so agitated that he could be seen wagging his right index finger at moderator Chris Wallace, as he did at the start of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when he shook the same finger and told the American public that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

He later admitted an “inappropriate” relationship with the former White House intern after his DNA matched a stain on her blue dress.

In the heated exchange, he also accused Mr. Wallace of shifting his questions away from a promised discussion of the former president’s Clinton Global Initiative project.

“You’ve got that little smirk on your face, and you think you’re so clever,” Mr. Clinton said. “You did your nice little conservative hit job on me.”

In an interview yesterday with MediaBistro.com, Mr. Wallace noted that Mr. Clinton is “a very big man” and that he thought the former president was trying to intimidate him by getting angry.

“As he leaned forward — wagging his finger in my face and then poking the notes I was holding — I felt as if a mountain was coming down in front of me,” Mr. Wallace said.

The interview was peppered with references to Mr. Clinton’s legacy as viewed through the prism of popular culture. For instance, when defending his efforts to capture or kill bin Laden, Mr. Clinton alluded to the 1997 film “Wag the Dog.”

“The people on my political right who say I didn’t do enough spent the whole time I was president saying, ‘Why is he so obsessed with bin Laden?’” Mr. Clinton said. “That was ‘wag the dog’ when he tried to kill him.”

In the movie, a U.S. president creates a fake war with Albania through the media in order to distract the public from an emerging sex scandal.

Mr. Clinton also took aim at ABC’s recent offering, “The Path to 9/11,” which depicted his administration as lax in its response to the threat of terrorism.

“ABC just had a right-wing conservative run in their little ‘Pathway to 9/11,’” Mr. Clinton said, saying the film was “falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 commission report, with three things asserted against me directly contradicted by the 9/11 commission report.”

During the past week, Mr. Clinton has given a number of other interviews, including stops with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and NBC’s Tim Russert. Both segments focused on his recent philanthropic work.

Mr. Clinton protested the questions from Fox, saying that the interview agreement stipulated that half of the 15-minute segment be devoted to his philanthropic efforts. Mr. Wallace noted in MediaBistro that still left half the time for other subjects and cited the transcripts as showing that he asked the same number of questions — five — on philanthropy-related matters as on other issues.

The former president went on to harshly criticize the Bush administration for failing to stop bin Laden before and after September 11.

“They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried. So, I tried and failed,” Mr. Clinton said. “Now, I’ve never criticized President Bush, and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq.”

Video excerpts of the interview first surfaced on the Internet on Friday.

The Drudge Report Web site, www.drudgereport.com, provided readers a link to part of the interview, headlined, “Purple Faced Rage.”



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