Clinton on Fox News

They're calling this the "Clinton smackdown." Whatever your opinions of Clinton (and personally, I think he squandered many opportunities and adopted too many neoliberal policies) it's interesting how effectively he deals with the questions thrown at him; many of them stemming from the misleading ABC program The Pathway to 9/11.

His replies are bold, even aggressive, and have certainly energized a lot of people (nearly 500 comments after the transcript). Poor old Chris Wallace!

Clinton's comments are a timely reminder of facts that are often conveniently forgotten or obscured by the current administration. For example, Clinton highlights Richard Clarke's book Against All Enemies, and its central charges that President Bush dropped the ball on terrorism prior to 9/11, and that after 9/11 Bush immediately diverted attention toward Iraq, even though there was no evidence of a connection to Al-Qaeda. Clarke was national security advisor for Bush when 9/11 occurred.

Clinton's appearance on a conservative tv channel is not likely to be often repeated, nor of course will it translate into equal representation on Sunday morning politics shows, nor aggressive questioning of administration officials. As a former president, Clinton can widen the debate, but don't forget that it is still extremely narrow.

For instance, the big news this week on the National Intelligence Estimate which concludes that the Iraq war has fueled terrorism (a story picked up around the world) directly contradicts the White House narrative. This is not some random finding; it was undertaken by the US's own intelligence agencies in April (16 of them). Presumably as Commander-in-Chief Bush is allowed to read this report, yet since April Bush has repeatedly claimed that things are going well and Al-Qaeda is being dismantled. He has not acknowledged the contradictory official findings of his own intelligence agencies. The Times observes that "Some intelligence officials have said the White House has consistently presented a more optimistic picture of the situation in Iraq than justified by intelligence reports from the field."

Yet the narrative is that we're doing fine, just stay the course, re-elect Republicans.

The Clinton interview, if it shows anything, shows how desperately we need to face up to reality on Iraq and terrorism. As Clinton said, read Clarke's book.

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