October 10, 2006
With the mid-term elections scant weeks away, political operatives everywhere are scrambling to raise issues and dig up dirt on any candidate under the sun. From Mark Foley to down and dirty political TV ads, the gloves are coming off. Along with all of this, I am seeing an emerging strategic trend, which is being adopted by mainstream Democrats. In a combined effort to polish the Clinton legacy and to re-cast Democrats as tough on matters of national security, there seems to be a growing effort to re-write or at least revise certain chapters of the history of the Clinton Administration.
Lately, there have been two fallacious thrusts of this Clinton Administration revisionist history, one more egregious than the next. First, during the now famous Fox News Sunday Chris Wallace interview, Clinton did everything he could to suggest that he had done everything possible to kill or capture Bin Laden and that his administration did a tremendous amount to thwart the plans of Al Qaeda. Secondly, and more recently, Democratic operatives are attempting to re-write the Clinton Administration’s handling of the People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) and their acquisition of nuclear technology and weaponry. Both of these Clinton failings are being recast as triumphs in order to “take back” national security as a winning issue for Democrats. The theory being that if Democrats can revise enough of the history of the Clinton Administration, they can achieve three important goals. If successful, Clinton’s somewhat sordid legacy can be repaired, the Democrats take a winning issue into the elections, and Hilary Clinton’s stock rises as somehow being tough on terror because her husband was (even though he wasn’t).
The facts on both of these issues have been known and touted by conservatives for years now, rarely if ever challenged. To must of us, it seems rather unusual to suddenly want to re-debate issues long since resolved. In the Bin Laden case, I was of the understanding that neither the Bush Administration nor the Clinton Administration had done nearly enough to prevent terrorism pre 9-11. Even though Clinton had many more opportunities and more time to fight Al Qaeda than Bush did, the issue, politically speaking, I considered to be a wash. It stands to reason that not much political mileage can be made on an issue where both sides of the aisle essentially failed. In a way, the whole country failed. We all failed to see Al Qaeda terrorism as the threat that we now know it to be. For example, the American public most likely would not have been behind a pre-emptive military attack on the Taliban, which now in hindsight would have been a brilliant move. So hindsight being 20/20, both administrations can be blamed for failing to prevent 9-11. To me, at least it seemed, that if blame were to be doled out, then the Clinton Administration would receive the lion’s share. I never imagined that Democrats would attempt to point to what Clinton did against terrorism pre –9-11 as a winning issue! A truly bizarre strategy over an issue, which I assumed, was a wash.
Since the Clintons want to re-debate and blame game who did what when pre 9-11, all of the same cast of characters have re-emerged from those days immediately following 9-11 when the American public wanted to know what the hell happened. Members of the 9-11 Commission, Richard Clarke, and Michael Scheuer all principal players in the post 9-11 political drama, are now getting a renaissance of face time on the various television news outlets and programs. If one listens closely to Michael Scheuer , head of the Osama Bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999, it is clear that President Clinton had many more opportunities to kill or capture Bin Laden than the Bush Administration ever did. The disarmingly candid Scheuer, by the way, is no fan of the Bush Administration. In his initially anonymously published book Imperial Hubris , he takes The Bush Administration's characterization of Osama Bin Laden to task as overly simplistic and incorrect by saying amongst other things that, “It's American foreign policy that enrages Osama and al-Maida, not American culture and society.” While the nature of our enemy in Al Qaeda is a matter worthy of debate, the facts surrounding our opportunities to kill Bin Laden are not a matter of dispute, rather they are a matter of historical fact. The self-deprecating and humble, self described bureaucrat Michael Scheuer is about as straight a shooter as there is when it comes to the facts surrounding Bin Laden and American counter terrorism measures pre 9-11. Among other condemnations, Scheuer points out that President Clinton had "eyes on target" many more times than any other administration ever came close to having. To make a long and well publicized story short, what we find after only a little research is that in reality the bulk of any blame that should be assigned vis a vis 9-11 should fall squarely on the shoulders of the Clinton Administration. Again, the Bush Administration, like the American people as a whole, is not blameless. But because Monday morning quarterbacking and blame gaming are not productive endeavors, I had issued all parties involved even Clinton, a pass. That we now find Democrats wanting to make what Clinton did pre 9-11 somehow a winning issue, to me is laughable.
The other area of history that Democrats are attempting to re-write of late surrounds North Korea. However ridiculous it would seem to point to Clinton’s handling of Bin Laden as a positive, attempting to recast Clinton’s handling of North Korea as adept, takes the ludicrous cake. I thought this issue as well had been put to rest long ago. I had no idea that suddenly now, weeks before an election, Democrats would point to the Clinton Administration’s handling of North Korea, by literally handing them nuclear technology, as a positive. This somewhat controversial ad created by David Zucker, director of the Naked Gun movies and Scary Movies, sums it all up nicely. As history has proven, dealing directly with North Korea in bilateral talks brings us nowhere because, when North Korea eventually blows us off and breaks the framework of an agreement, the rest of the world does not care. Other countries like China and Russia laugh at us when crackpot despots blow us off. Having learned that lesson, it seems clear that any type of agreement that would hold up would have to be a multilateral effort which Bush has been attempting to undertake. A strategy, by the way, that one would think Democrats would be in favor of given their carping vis a vis Iraq. As usual however, Democrats are always in favor of doing the opposite of whatever it is that we are doing. Suddenly now Democrats are in favor of unilateral action when it comes to North Korea (and Darfur by the way). Also, Democrats are now suggesting that the reason that North Korea desires nuclear weapons and broke their agreements with us is because they were offended for being included in the “axis of evil” speech given by President Bush. The theory being that Bush is to blame for not coddling or cozying up to Kim Jong Il. It's amazing that Democrats still have not abandoned the strategy of appeasement when it comes to dealing with our enemies. It's as if Democrats are suddenly Rip Van Winkle, just now waking up from a slumber in which they were not aware of the last 20 years of history.
All of this goes to the idea that Democrats want to make national security their own issue. Their mentality is “not to get swift boated” again, meaning that because of the swift boat ads, defense and national security had been taken away from John Kerry as his own issue in the 2004 presidential election. It is of course silly to cite the largely truthful swift boat ads as the reason why Americans didn’t buy into Kerry as tough on terror, when the real reason was in fact that Democrats are in reality weak on terror. Meaning, It is not a question of spin and political ads as much as it of actual facts and voting records.
In the end, I believe it to be a losing strategy to attempt to re-write history by casting Clinton and the Democrats as all knowing national security gurus. A better strategy would be to actually vote for measures that are tough on terror, such as the wiretapping of potential terrorists, risk profiling at airports, and tracking the finances of terrorists. But because Democrats don’t actually believe in these and many other anti terror tactics, they (unless directly involved in a mid term election), cannot bring themselves to vote for them. So the strategy is: rather than actually be tough on terror, try to revise history to a point whereas the American people begin to somehow believe that they are tough on terror. At the end of the day, trying to confuse the American people into believing that Democrats are and have been tough on terror is a poor substitute for actually being tough on terror.