Don't believe your lying eyes

Posted: Mar 26, 2004 12:00 AM

The essence of Richard Clarke's book and public testimony before the 9-11 investigative commission is: "Don't believe your lying eyes," and "Don't believe my prior statements praising President Bush's decision to combat terrorism far more aggressively than President Clinton had."

Would Richard Clarke, the Democrats and the partisan media now have us believe that Bush, at heart, is soft on terrorism? Is that the point of all this? To believe that, we have to ignore what Clarke himself said previously and, more importantly, Bush's unambiguous conduct of the War on Terror.

We know that Bush has taken terrorism very seriously and that he has declared and conducted a multifaceted war against it. His decisive actions speak far louder than words belatedly attributed to him by a disgruntled Clarke, who attributed a different attitude and different words to Bush at a time when Clarke was less disgruntled and had no incentive to distort the truth.

Indeed, we know from Clarke's prior utterances ? not someone else's interpretation or inferences from Clarke's words ? that President Bush, before 9-11, directed that we make a dramatic course correction in our approach to terrorism, from "swatting flies" to draining the terrorist swamp. In his previous life, Clarke was quite clear that Bush's pre-9-11 approach to terrorism was much more aggressive than Clinton's.

Our own observations confirm that Clinton had a decidedly casual approach to terrorism, treating it as a law enforcement matter, refusing to capture Osama bin Laden, and sometimes lobbing gratuitous cruise missiles at Iraq or aspirin factories in Sudan.

And we certainly mustn't accept the convenient Democratic revisionism that any Democratic president would have responded with the same zeal against terrorism after 9-11 that President Bush has. What basis is there to believe that Clinton, Gore or Kerry would have reacted with similar force when they've berated Bush and resisted him almost every step of the way?

We don't even know for sure if in office any of them would have attacked the Taliban. We just don't know. Odds are, they wouldn't have attacked Iraq either, liberating 50 million Iraqis and establishing another democracy in the Middle East ? not to mention sending a chilling signal to such dictators as Libya's Qaddafi, causing him to disgorge his WMD.

It is incomprehensible that Democrats are painting Bush as weak on terror, given his record, especially considering that their own torchbearer, John Kerry, recently complained that Bush has been exaggerating the terrorist threat.

It isn't just Kerry. All along liberals in the Democratic Party and in the partisan press have recoiled at Bush's moral clarity and his supposed simplicity and lack of nuance. Now they're saying he was lax about terror? Which is it: Is Bush a reckless, gun-toting cowboy or a feckless appeaser blind to the threat of terrorism?

But for argument's sake, what if we accept as true what Clarke is now saying? Viewed in the worst possible light to Bush it means that Bush and his advisors didn't take seriously enough the terrorist threat before 9-11. So what? Can anyone objectively deny that he has approached it with gravity since?

The only possible relevance of dredging up Bush's alleged dereliction prior to 9-11 is to imply that had Bush been more engaged, 9-11 could have been prevented. Why else would Clarke be issuing that presumptuously inappropriate apology to the 9-11 victims' families?

But no rational person believes that Bush could have prevented the attacks, so few would make the charge openly. Instead, they deliberately plant the seeds of a suggestion and leave it hanging in the air to create a stench around President Bush, hoping to discredit his performance as commander in chief.

One of the worst aspects of this investigation is its implicit assumption that we could have prevented 9-11, as if intelligence is an exact science and as if all terrorist attacks are wholly preventable. This is not only an unspeakably arrogant attitude, it also shifts our focus from the true culprits in this war and robs us of some of the moral energy necessary to fight them.

Without an infallible crystal ball we can't possibly expect to thwart all terrorist attacks in perpetuity. These people harbor no respect for human life, play by no rules, and, above all, are unpredictable. Yet, amazingly, we have prevented further attacks on American soil since 9-11.

Isn't that the real story here and the one Democrats want to blur through this orchestrated and reprehensible chicanery involving Richard Clarke?

President Bush's remarkable record in the War on Terror speaks for itself -- no matter how brazenly Democrats are trying to suppress it.

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