March 26, 2004

JAMES LILEKS notes that press coverage of Richard Clarke seems to be soft-pedaling his self-contradictions and dissembling:

When I said yesterday that Clarke should have expected some push-back, I should have been more clear. I meant that he must have known his contradictory statements would be made public, quickly, and these remarks, combined with his exquisitely timed book and PR push, would have an impact on his credibility. But he’s obviously smarter than I will ever be; he expected that the climate was right for his contradictions to be explained away or ignored.

Yep, it’s an election year, with a Republican incumbent. Read the whole thing, as Lileks offers rather a lot of specifics. He more or less fisks the entire Big Media coverage in one sitting.

Meanwhile Charles Krauthammer writes that Clarke is a “partisan perjurer:”

It is only March, but the 2004 Chutzpah of the Year Award can be safely given out. It goes to Richard Clarke, now making himself famous by blaming the Bush administration for Sept. 11 — after Clarke had spent eight years in charge of counterterrorism for a Clinton administration that did nothing.

First, if the Clarke of 2002 was telling the truth, then the Clarke of this week — the one who told the Sept. 11 commission under oath that “fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration — certainly [there was] no higher priority” — is a liar.

Second, he becomes not just a perjurer but a partisan perjurer. He savages Bush for not having made al Qaeda his top national security priority, but he refuses even to call a “mistake” Clinton’s staggering dereliction in putting Yasser Arafat and Yugoslavia(!) above fighting al Qaeda.

Clarke gives Clinton a pass and instead concentrates his ire on Bush. For what? For not having preemptively attacked Afghanistan? On what grounds — increased terrorist chatter in June and July 2001?

Read the whole thing. But the press — many of whose leaders quietly gathered to give Kerry a hand back in the fall — is doing its best to soften up Bush for November now. If Clarke were attacking a Democratic president, they’d have been all over his contradictions. But this spin will only make his unravelling more damaging, and contribute to the ongoing self-marginalization of the old media.

UPDATE: Belgravia Dispatch says thta TNR’s Clarke coverage is dropping the ball.