Rich Lowry

And why attack just one Afghan training camp? Mike Rolince, former chief of the international terrorism division of the FBI, explained to me: "We never went back to the camps and dismantled the neighborhood where these people were allowed to train, test chemicals, recruit, plan operations. On a regular basis, we saw intelligence that documented what they were, where they were, how big they were, how many people were going through there, and the administration lacked the political will to go in there and do something about it."

Amazingly, the Clinton administration didn't even designate Afghanistan a state sponsor of terror. That would have been too bellicose. By 2000, various government reports had recommended what were consensus measures to address the terror threat, from squeezing state sponsors of terror, to cutting off funding, to tightening visa policy, to loosening restrictions on the CIA and FBI. Clinton did none of it.

He was, fundamentally, the do-nothing president about terrorism, although he knew -- as he tells us now -- the grave nature of the threat. It was Bush who could have told Clinton a few things about how to respond to terror in their exit interview, since his instincts were so much sounder. After the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, Bush as a candidate said that "there must be a consequence." Common sense, right? Not for Clinton. He let the attack go unanswered.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Rich Lowry's column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.