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Don't tug on superman's cape: Underrate Dick Clarke to your peril

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Watching the inside-the-beltway, alpha-interviewer, Tim Russert, question Richard Clarke on Meet the Press this morning, I believe that the administration continues to underrate Clarke to its peril. Russert quoted and then questioned Clarke about a litany of matters that attempted to discredit his skills and motives. Clarke’s pause-less, flawless, mastery of nuance performance matched his 9/11 Commission testimony.

Under direct question from Russert regarding Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s floor comments that Clarke "has told two entirely different stories under oath, " was likely guilty of perjury, and why wouldn’t he renounce any financial gain from the book, Clarke called for even greater release, including both the:

(1) July 2002 classified testimony before a joint House-Senate intelligence inquiry, and the
(2) classified 9/11 Commission testimony.

Clarke further lifted the bar by asking that more items be declassified:

(3) 25 January 2001 memo to Condi Rice containing the plan that Clarke had proposed, and which Rice and others say didn’t exist.
(4) 4 September 2001 National Security Directive authored by Clarke.
(5) All of Clarke’s emails to Rice from 20 Jan to 11 September.
(6) All of Rice’s replies to Clarke in the same period.

I am moved to question the current the White House communications and PR plan in this White House, which is to say, perhaps, where is Karen Hughes? She is returning but she also advocated the assault on Clarke.  Given the gaffs and misteps, I wonder who is looking at secondary effects and implications of their actions or lack of action. Richard Clarke, as the article, "The Wonk That Roared," below notes, is the "alpha-bureaucrat."

Clarke went on to cite the opinions of a doyen of the right, Pat Buchanan, on writing a backgrounder to defend an administration, which matches Clarke’s approach precisely.

Clarke dealt with the timing issue with a lockstep chronology from leaving the administration in February 2003 to releasing the NSC-approved text to his publisher in February 2004.

In dealing with Frist’s call to renounce all royalties from the book, Clarke replied that he had not only had plans to donate monies to the victims but also the widows and orphans of the Special ops KIA.

I still find Clarke's arguments arresting to the point that the administration will have to release someone, the leading candidate of which is Condi Rice.  I would think that the administration would try to find a way to co-opt or transcend Clarke rather than continuing to attack him. As the song writer Jim Croce noted:

You don't tug on superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask of the ol' lone ranger
And you don't mess around with ….

I suggest three citations:

The Wonk That Roared
Richard Clarke and the Rise Of the Heroic Bureaucrat
By Joel Achenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 28, 2004; Page D01

Ex-Bush Aide Calls for Testimony on Terrorism to Be Opened
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
March 28, 2004
Filed at 11:10 a.m. ET

Bush's Efforts to Offset Clarke Stymied
Republicans Say Administration Struggling for Momentum After Ex-Aide's Assertions
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 28, 2004; Page A23

Gordon Housworth



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