Notes on the Atrocities
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Monday, March 29, 2004  

On Credibility

The sole course of attack available to the White House against Richard Clarke's allegations is personal--he's not credible. The reason, obviously, is because his allegations are true. How do we know? Oddly, we know because the administration has told us so. If his accusations were false, the administration would be attacking his argument, not his credibility. That they can't find a single false claim to attack is the very proof of the claims' accuracy.

So let's talk credibility. Immediately following Clarke's 60 Minutes appearance, the White House tried to deny that Bush even met with Clarke on 9/12. Why would the WH think this is a good argument? Not meeting with the head of counterterrorism following 9/11 is more inexplicable than asking about Iraq. But never mind that--it was a lie, anyway. Later, once the WH learned there was proof the meeting happened, they decided to cop to it. Through all of this, of course, Clarke suffered ad hominem attack after ad hominem attack--and never changed his story.

So then the WH decided to try to show a discrepancy between Clarke's book and his previous comments. Bizarrely, it played the resignation-letter card. Scott McClellan trotted out this letter, which was cordial and thanked the President, saying it proved Clarke must have thought everything was hunky dory with WH policy toward terrorism. Again, why the WH felt this argument would somehow defame Clarke is incomprehensible. But never mind--Clarke had a response. Yesterday, on Meet the Press, he produced a handwritten letter from the President praising Clarke for leaving "a positive mark on goverment" and serving the nation "with distinction and honor." Why then is the White House attacking him like he's Osama bin Laden?

Then the biggie--the WH, this time through surrogates in the Senate, demanded the declassification of Clarke's testimony in 2002 before House and Senate intelligence committees. And then yesterday, Clarke agreed, demanding that they be declassified--knowing they will exonerate him.

Along the way, the administration tried to bolster its terror-fightin' cred. In a well-choreographed media assault, White House minions argued--against all evidence--that terrorism was its highest priority leading up to 9/11. Yet even Bob Woodward's book Bush at War--which has heretofore been used by the WH at every available PR opportunity--disputes this claim. As does all relevant declassified information currently available.

Now Condi Rice, affecting a disappointed face, laments she can't appear under oath before the 9/11 committee because it would set a dangerous precedent. But dang it, she'd surely love to. I have no doubt this will backfire. The reason Condi won't testify, obviously, is because the adminstration wants to avoid culpability. It will backfire because the administration's objection is a thin legal one, not a constitutional one. (The 9/11 commission isn't an official government body. Of course Condi could appear--and would, if the WH didn't have something to hide. How do I know? See my logical proof above.)

So throughout this whole sordid mess, every single allegation by Clarke has stood unrefuted. In the meantime, every single argument offered up by the White House has been refuted, abandoned, or called into serious question by contradictory evidence and facts.

So after a week of this nonsense, I'm compelled to agree with the White House. Once again, there is a huge "credibility" problem. I am not shocked: it tends to happen when you lie through your teeth.

[More:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House may have mishandled accusations leveled by their former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke by attacking his credibility, keeping the controversy firmly in the headlines into a second week, political analysts said.

"The Bush administration and its allies have certainly not helped the story go away," said Howard Opinsky, a Republican operative who ran media relations for Arizona Sen. John McCain during his 2000 presidential bid.

"Instead, they adopted the risky strategy of trying to refute his charges, which makes it appear that they have something to hide," he said.

No--ya think?]

posted by Jeff | 8:09 AM |
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