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2004-03-25

9/11 Hearings: Clarke Defends Against Accusations of Partisanship

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Former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke came under fierce attack by the Bush administration who sought to discredit him and accused him of partisanship after the publication of his book "Against All Enemies" that slams the White House’s handling of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent war against Iraq. Clarke defended himself at the 9/11 hearings. [Includes transcript]

TRANSCRIPT

JOHN LEHMAN, COMMISSION MEMBER: Dick, since you and I first served 28 years ago in the MBFR delegation, I have genuinely been a fan of yours. I’ve watched you labor without fear of favor in a succession of jobs where you really made a difference. And so when you agreed to spend as much time as you did with us in, as you say, 15 hours, I was very hopeful.

And I attended one of those all-day sessions and read the other two transcripts, and I thought they were terrific. I thought here we have a guy who can be the Rosetta Stone for helping this commission do its job, to help to have the American people grasp what the dysfunctional problems in this government are.

And I thought you let the chips fall where they may. You made a few value judgments which could be debated. But by and large, you were critical of the things, institutions, and people that could have done better and some that did very badly.

And certainly the greater weight of this criticism fell during the Clinton years simply because there were eight of them and only 7 1/2 months of the Bush years. I don’t think you, in the transcripts that we have of your classified interviews, pulled punches in either direction. And, frankly, a lot of my questioning this past two days has been drawn from some of the things that you articulated so well during the Clinton years, particularly, because they stretched from the first, as you pointed out, attempt by Saddam to assassinate President Bush 41 right up through the end of the administration.

But now we have the book. And I’ve published books. And I must say I am green with envy at the promotion department of your publisher.

LEHMAN: I never got Jim Thompson to stand before 50 photographers reading your book. And I certainly never got "60 Minutes" to coordinate the showing of its interview with you with 15 network news broadcasts, the selling of the movie rights, and your appearance here today. So I would say, "Bravo."

(LAUGHTER)

Until I started reading those press reports, and I said this can’t be the same Dick Clarke that testified before us, because all of the promotional material and all of the spin in the networks was that this is a rounding, devastating attack — this book — on President Bush.

That’s not what I heard in the interviews. And I hope you’re going to tell me, as you apologized to the families for all of us who were involved in national security, that this tremendous difference — and not just in nuance, but in the stories you choose to tell — is really the result of your editors and your promoters, rather than your studied judgment, because it is so different from the whole thrust of your testimony to us.

And similarly, when you add to it the inconsistency between what your promoters are putting out and what you yourself said as late as August '05, you've got a real credibility problem.

And because of my real genuine long-term admiration for you, I hope you’ll resolve that credibility problem, because I’d hate to see you become totally shoved to one side during a presidential campaign as an active partisan selling a book.

RICHARD CLARKE: Thank you, John.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me talk about partisanship here, since you raise it. I’ve been accused of being a member of John Kerry’s campaign team several times this week, including by the White House. So let’s just lay that one to bed. I’m not working for the Kerry campaign. Last time I had to declare my party loyalty, it was to vote in the Virginia primary for president of the United States in the year 2000. And I asked for a Republican ballot.

CLARKE: I worked for Ronald Reagan with you. I worked for the first President Bush. And he nominated me to the Senate as an assistant secretary of state, and I worked in his White House, and I’ve worked for this President Bush. And I’m not working for Senator Kerry.

Now, the fact of the matter is, I do co-teach a class with someone who works for Senator Kerry. That person is named Randy Beers. Randy Beers and I have worked together in the federal government and the White House and the State Department for 25 years.

Randy Beers worked in the White House for Ronald Reagan. Randy Beers worked in the White House for the first President Bush, and Randy Beers worked in the White House for the second President Bush.

And just because he is now working for Senator Kerry, I am not going to disassociate myself from one of my best friends and someone who I greatly respect and worked with for 25 years.

And, yes, I will admit, I co-teach a class at the Harvard University and Georgetown University with Mr. Beers. That, I don’t think, makes me a member of the Kerry campaign.

The White House has said that my book is an audition for a high- level position in the Kerry campaign. So let me say here as I am under oath, that I will not accept any position in the Kerry administration, should there be one — on the record, under oath.

Now, as to your accusation that there is a difference between what I said to this commission in 15 hours of testimony and what I am saying in my book and what media outlets are asking me to comment on, I think there’s a very good reason for that.

In the 15 hours of testimony, no one asked me what I thought about the president’s invasion of Iraq. And the reason I am strident in my criticism of the president of the United States is because by invading Iraq — something I was not asked about by the commission, it’s something I chose write about a lot in the book — by invading Iraq the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism.

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