In the weeks of uproar over 16 words in President Bush's State of the Union address, one thing becomes very clear: Bush is being punished by the liberal media for strategic boldness and a quick military victory on the ground. Neither of these was a strength of the Clinton presidency.
This became evident last week when NBC's Katie Couric tried to press former Clinton CIA Director James Woolsey over how CIA Director George Tenet should have looked over the dreaded Saddam-seeks-uranium sentence. Didn't you vet Clinton addresses, she asked? Woolsey coolly replied that Clinton didn't speak about intelligence in his first two January addresses to Congress. Furthermore, when Clinton launched the strike on Iraq in retaliation for Saddam's attempt to kill former president Bush in the summer of 1993, "not only did I not vet the statement, I did not know the strike was going to occur until it was in the process of occurring. We hadn't been invited into the meetings to make the assessments."
This was never one of the many Clinton scandals -- but it should have been. Clinton's usual military approach was to drop a few bombs, beat his breast publicly about actions that did nothing but kill janitors in enemy buildings, and never, ever tolerate an American casualty. And yet these meaningless military mini-campaigns were roundly celebrated by the press. Reporters refused to question the quality of his intelligence -- or whether he actually even asked for it.
When American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by Osama bin Laden in 1998, CBS blamed Congress for "drastic cutbacks." When Clinton responded by attacking targets in Afghanistan and Sudan three days after admitting the Lewinsky affair, Ted Koppel found it "unthinkable" to question Clinton's actions and mourned "the times we live in" that some people did not believe the White House line. No network anchor asked where Clinton received his intelligence -- if any -- even after it emerged that the alleged chemical-weapons site was a pharmaceutical factory and the U.S. government paid damages to the Sudanese owner.
In 1999, Clinton dissembled in his State of the Union address: "We will defend our security wherever we are threatened, as we did this summer when we struck at Osama bin Laden's network of terror." The August 16, 1999, U.S. News & World Report published an investigation by reporters Warren Strobel and Kevin Whitelaw that painted a different picture on the bombing at the Sudanese site of El Shifa. They found that "virtually everything the administration said publicly about El Shifa in the days after the attack has turned out to be wrong." And: "The decision to bomb El Shifa was made by fewer than a dozen top U.S. officials. This meant that experts on both Sudan and chemical weapons were not consulted about the government's evidence."
Do you remember the weeks of media frenzy after that U.S. News report came out? Calls for congressional investigations? Talk of "growing" intelligence scandals? Neither do I.
As General Katie Couric and the others pound President Bush daily on the quality of his leadership and the content of his character, just remember that in the Clinton era the State of the Union address was never an occasion to underline defense or intelligence matters. On average, Clinton spoke for about 5,000 words on domestic initiatives before he reached the national-security section.
The domestic section was often full of laughably dishonest sentences. "The era of big government is over" in 1996. Or this whopper from 1998: "We have the smallest government in 35 years, but a more progressive one." Foreign policy was no different. You could chortle at this Clinton boast from 1996: "North Korea has now frozen its dangerous nuclear weapons program." But about the only boast that would seem to require an intelligence review was his claim that "there is not a single Russian missile pointed at America's children." Clinton liked that line so much he used it in 1995 and 1996.
Most of Clinton's national-security sections stressed his utopian devotion to treaties -- chemical weapons conventions, comprehensive nuclear test bans -- though these never stopped Saddam. In 1996, Clinton claimed, "As we remember what happened in the Japanese subway (a sarin gas attack), we can outlaw poison gas forever -- if the Senate ratifies the Chemical Weapons Convention this year."
In stark contrast to the last president, George W. Bush took an enormous political risk, and put an end to Saddam Hussein's world-defying attempts to built weapons of mass destruction and liberated Iraq from decades of tyranny. He put American soldiers in harm's way for one of the most impressive military victories in history. For this, his honesty and character are questioned daily by the same media elite who found questions about Bill Clinton's military honesty "unthinkable." How sickening.