Don’t take Paul O’Neill’s word for it. He was just the President’s Treasury Secretary. His experience of the Bush Administration is recounted in The Price of Loyalty. It includes reference to a January 31, 2001 National Security Counsel meeting with the President, only 11 days after the Inauguration. Already Iraq was high on the agenda. Take a look. Four of the five items directly name Iraq, including: ‘Political-Military Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq Crisis.’

(Missing from the agenda is any mention of Osama bin Laden, even though it was just 24 days earlier, on January 7, at Blair House, across the street from the White House, that the President- and Vice President-elect were told by CIA director Tenet that Osama and Al-Qaeda posed a ‘tremendous’ and ‘immediate’ threat to the United States of America. According to Bob Woodward’s generally pro-Bush book, Bush at War, that tremendous, immediate threat was ignored until September 11.)

Could then-candidate Bush have been promising the electorate a ‘humble foreign policy’ even as he was planning to ‘do Iraq?’

But, as I say, don’t take Paul O’Neill’s word for it.

Now comes Dick Clarke, a 30-year veteran of the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush administrations. President George W. Bush’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, he was the guy left to run the Situation Room after almost everyone else had evacuated the White House on September 11. They more or less left the nation in his care. Not exactly a disgruntled junior staffer.

Did you see ’60 Minutes’ last night?

Frankly [Clarke tells Lesley Stahl], I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know.

. . . I think he’s done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.”

Where Clinton brought his Cabinet to “battle stations” during a period of heavy chatter in 1999 and averted an attack on Los Angeles International Airport, Bush did no such thing during the heavy chatter in the weeks leading up to September 11. (The President was on a month’s vacation after his first six months in office, if memory serves.) And once we did have September 11, the President all but insisted Clarke find way to link it to Iraq.

You have to see this interview. Or, failing that, you have to read his book.

Tomorrow: Selling Some TIPS

 

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