Donald Lambro

"In fact, the Bush team held several meetings on terrorism through the interagency group known as the deputies committee and one on Sept. 4, 2001, through the principals committee composed of Cabinet officers."

It goes without saying that Clinton, then out of office, could not possibly know what kind of highly classified meetings were being held by the White House and defense-intelligence agencies. My own sources say Cheney, assigned by Bush to make this a high priority, was pressing this initiative at multiple leadership levels as they began a top-to-bottom review soon after Bush's inauguration at the end of January 2001.

Elsewhere in the interview, in a classic case of blame-shifting, Clinton said that he wanted to take military action against the Taliban and bin Laden, but he could not get the intelligence agencies to agree on a plan of action and sign off on what he wanted to do.

Is he saying that as America's commander in chief he could not execute the necessary orders to go after the terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan? That his hands were tied? That he wasn't fully in charge?

We do know that the military leadership in Clinton's administration was also opposed to taking action in Afghanistan at that time, including his own defense secretary. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout the interview with Chris Wallace, a fair-minded journalist who was unfairly made the brunt of Clinton's personal attacks, the former president kept arguing that Bush did nothing on terrorism in the seven and a half months he was president.

The facts say otherwise, but now the question is, what did Clinton do in eight years to thwart the terrorists' ascendancy?

Of course, other motivations were driving Clinton's on-air tirade. He was obviously playing to the Democrats' political base in a calculated effort to energize his party in the final weeks of an election in which Bush has successfully elevated the war on terrorism as a strategic issue in the campaign.

With his own record on terrorism under assault, Clinton finds himself at the center of an election-year debate about which party will keep us safer. But despite his latest attempt at historical revisionism, the polls tell us that Bush and the GOP win this issue hands down.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.