April 01, 2004


What was Richard Clarke’s point, exactly?

If President Bush had followed every last letter of Richard Clarke's recommendations starting Inauguration Day, it still would not have prevented 9/11. How do we know this? Richard Clarke says so.

Here's how the disgruntled National Security Council veteran put it last week in an exchange with Slade Gorton, a member of the 9/11 Commission and former Washington Senator:

Mr. Gorton: "Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25 of 2001 . . . including aid to the Northern Alliance which had been an agenda item at this point for two and a half years without any action, assuming that there had been more Predator reconnaissance missions, assuming that that had all been adopted, say, on January 26, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?"

Mr. Clarke: "No."

And that’s the end of that. The WSJ concludes: “As long as Mr. Clarke is in the apology business, can we have one for wasting a week of the Administration's precious antiterror time?” In other time-wasting news, Daily Kos reports that John Kerry’s DemUnityFest performance was total crap:

Dean left midway through Kerry's speech. And speaking of Kerry's speech, it wasn't so hot. Applause lines fell flat, and his voice trailed off randomly at times. It seemed as though he was in that "I need a vacation from my vacation" stage. And coming in the heels of Clinton's speech... well, you can imagine the disconnect. Damn, Clinton is a talent. Sigh...

Posted by Tim Blair at April 1, 2004 02:41 AM

I know your only in this for the snark, not real analysis, but if you look at all of Clark's testimony he did say that his recommendations for attacking al qeada's bases and trying to kill bin ladin would not have stopped 9/11. However, that was not his only criticism. He testified that if Bush had done what Clinton had done in December 1999 when Clinton successfully stopped the Millenium bombings, it may have been stopped. Clark said that if Bush had gone to full alert, held daily meetings with the heads of the FBI, CIA, etc., we may have shaken sufficient information out of the bureaucracies to stop the attacks, because the information was there, it just didn't get filtered up to the top. Instead, Bush responded to the "hair on fire" warnings from the CIA by taking the longest summer vacation in the modern history of the presidency.

Posted by: pj at April 1, 2004 at 03:40 AM

Give it up. The Clarke story is dead. The White House has obviously come up with enough for Condi to say in her testimony to at the least neutralize him. Otherwise, she wouldn't be testifying.

Posted by: Joe American at April 1, 2004 at 04:43 AM

Good April Fools joke there, PJ. You sure had me going for a moment!

Posted by: Dave T. at April 1, 2004 at 05:10 AM

Well, just in case pj ain't joking, it was a customs agent who suspected drug smuggling that stopped the bombing of LA International. The article doesn't seem to mention President Clinton being consulted directly.

Posted by: Matt Moore at April 1, 2004 at 05:27 AM

PJ, wasn't Kerry saying a month or so ago that Bush was exaggerating the threat of terror?

We all know that you're full of it, none of us believe your fake outrage over Clarke's book deal.

Posted by: John Nowak at April 1, 2004 at 05:29 AM

According to a top counterterrorism official, in the summer in question "the White House did insure that domestic law enforcement (including FAA) knew that the [counterterrorism security group] believed that a major al Qaeda attack was coming and it could be in the U.S. ... and did ask that special measures be taken." Of course, that official was Richard Clarke. By the way, from what I can tell the spike in chatter was in June-July 2001. Bush didn't go on vacation til early August, and continued to receive a daily intelligence briefing during his vacation.

Posted by: scott h. at April 1, 2004 at 05:45 AM


Let's put the Millenium into perspective. Like other matters involving national security, Clinton tended to wait until he was bit in the butt. For pending internal disasters, he was pro-active as hell. It's one reason why he won his first term from Bush senior (thanks to the Hurricane Andrew response fiasco).

Clinton's main concern was to avoid the building hysteria over the "Y2K rollover", and thus prevent any political repercussions. I know that security was increased at various locations, but a lot of that didn't happen until after Customs caught one guy coming in from Canada with a load of explosives. And that was stop at the Canadian border was luck, not due to increased security.

So I wouldn't tout stopping the "Millenium bombings" as a plus for Clarke. It's a good word for Customs, but of no importance to Clarke and his story. It's like claiming that shooting expensive cruise missiles at adobe buildings in the middle of Afghanistan was a decisive strike against Osama.

Posted by: JeffS at April 1, 2004 at 09:27 AM

How long before DemUnity turns into DemMutiny?

Posted by: PW at April 1, 2004 at 10:27 AM

Jeffs: what Hurricane Andrew fiasco? Take it from one who lived through it, most people in Miami made out like bandits, including the insurance companies, who now can charge everyone up the yin-yang. FEMA came down with barrels of cash and loans at .00008% interest (well, not too far from that). A coworker of mine who lived in Ft. Lauderdale (at the outer edge of the storm, I think there were windgusts of maybe 50 mph every so often in her neighborhood) had minor damage to her trailer home and ended up with a brand-new house. Her new prayer became "Thank you, God, for sending Hurricane Andrew." And she wasn't the only one who got a brand-new house thanks to Uncle Sam. Sure, people griped about weeks of no electricity and stupid looters, but you can live without air-conditioning in Florida -- it's not the Australian outback, you won't die from heat stroke unless you are stupid. And the looters mostly looted their own lousy neighborhoods, thanks to the National Guard troops that were stationed all over the place. (It was neat when they all came down, kind of like the invasion of Iraq.)

Everyone I knew, at least, who voted against Bush I did so due to 1) some domestic policy bullshit I can't remember now, and 2) the way he left Saddam in power in Iraq after having smacked said dictator away from Kuwait with a stick, which made us not only look like the UN's and Saudi Arabia's lackeys, but made us look like idiots on the world stage.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 1, 2004 at 11:50 AM


Well, true, Uncle Sugar dumped loads of cash there in Florida. I spent a month on temporary duty there, myself, writing damage assessments that few people really checked. Florida came out well indeed. From your perspective, no problem.

But as one who was there on the Federal disaster side, Uncle Sugar generally dealt with the infrastructure. Private insurance paid most home damage claims. There were federal loans and grants by FEMA, and the rules were loose, but they weren't throwing money out of planes.

The real problem was that the *initial* Federal response was laughably slow, practically a comedy of errors. And then when it did get rolling, the focus was on Florida, and the priority was there as well. Other parts of the country did not get handled the same -- and there were other disasters that year who did not get the same level of treatment. Preferential treatment? You bet! Combined with the bureaucratic indifference at the start of the disaster, and to the rest of the country it looked like a fiasco. You were out of power at the time, I'll bet, and couldn't watch TV much. The rest of the country was focused on Florida, and that was a big issue in the media (yeah, I know -- the media).

SOunds like a whine? I agree. But the economy was tanking at about the same time. And while Bush Senior was not popular with having left Saddam in power, he wasn't hated for it either. It was the economy that killed his re-election.

So it wasn't Hurricane Andrew by itself that caused Bush's downfall. It just helped. From my perspective in the Federal response community, it was a fiasco, just a successful one. And that is not an oxymoron.

Clinton saw this. One of the first things he did upon taking office was to put a very competent man in charge of FEMA, James Lee Witt. This was probably one of Bill's few good appointees. He turned FEMA around 180 degrees from an indifferent agency into a real response agency. Every time there was a disaster, FEMA was on the scene without a call from the GOvernor.

So Clinton learned from that mistake of Bush Senior. And so did Bush, Junior. Who did he appoint as FEMA director? His campaign manager.

My point earlier was that Clinton did not want a public backlash for mishandling a disaster. He learned that from Andrew.

Hope this helps....and I am glad that you survived Andrew! That was one ugly storm.

Posted by: JeffS at April 1, 2004 at 12:49 PM

Well, that's interesting. I'm afraid the fact that we looked like a helpless ignored victim to the rest of the nation because Daddy Gummint didn't sent down blankies right away quite passed me by, probably because I was too busy experiencing the fun firsthand. Actually, everyone who really had been affected by the storm was too busy cleaning up to have time to sit around and worry about whether the president was going to "do something" or not. I don't remember worrying about it anyway. I suppose there was the usual level of carping and bitching -- government agencies cause that -- but the fact that "Andrew!" was some sort of Bush-takedown rallying cry in the rest of the country comes as a big surprise to me.

As for surviving, Andrew didn't have a real high death toll, at least in South Florida. (I forget if it killed anyone in Naples or where it ended up after crossing the Gulf.) The death toll was under fifty, I think, and most of the dead were people who refused to leave their homes, thinking this hurricane would pass them by like the other ones had done for the past twenty years. I guess we can thank the awful pre-Andrew joke homes that used to be built here for some of that too: balsa wood and styrofoam don't do much damage even in 120 mph winds.

By the way, I'm not one of the windfall benefitters; I didn't own any property, I just rented an efficiency in West Dade; and the mortgage company I worked for went belly up a few years later because of Hurricane Andrew-caused changes in the industry. (For one thing, no one wanted to trade their nice, low-income FEMA mortgage in for a higher-rate one.)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 1, 2004 at 01:41 PM

PS: I wasn't particularly affected by the storm in my personal situation; all I did was stay at a friend's house for a couple of weeks until the electricity was restored in my neighborhood. We lost lots of trees and my friends' parents lost the fence to their patio. (Literally lost -- we never saw those boards again. They probably ended up in the Everglades.)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 1, 2004 at 01:43 PM


Yes, your story parallels a lot of what I heard during my tour down there. I was quite impressed with Florida residents survival skills, especially with their ability to shoot looters. A handy skill that! :-)

I believe the maximum wind speed was clocked at 212 MPH.....and then the anemometer blew away. Two things astounded me about the aftermath. First, the lack of deaths, mostly due to the evacuations. Second, the sheer amount of debris generated by the storm. That kept the clean up going almost a year, but demonstrated what the casualties would have been without the evacuations.

And, yes, the hurricane response became a political issue. Not a major one, I should note, but a definite thorn in the side of Bush Senior. Enough to get Clinton to fix FEMA afterwards. I'm not surprised you didn't know that. It was a national issue for maybe a week or so immediately after Andrew had gone through; by then, the Federal response was overwhelming, and you folks down there were absorbed in more immediate issues. A lot of the bitching came from the state government, as I recall, and probably from the counties and cities as well. I know they were a real pain during the damage surveys -- the items they claimed for reimbursement were sometimes scandalous.

Andrew also showed a lot of shortcomings in both local building codes and code enforcement. There was a lot of very shoddy construction going on, pre-Andrew, and enforcement was, ummmmm, sporadic, according to the afteraction reports. I hear that changed.

So some good came out of the storm!

Posted by: JeffS at April 1, 2004 at 02:33 PM


Now that I think about it......weren't the counties that were "chad challenged" in the 2000 presidential elections hit hardest by Andrew? I know that the biggest headaches were dealing with the local governments in and around the Miami area, including the county. That might explain a lot! :-)

Posted by: JeffS at April 1, 2004 at 02:39 PM

No -- West Palm Beach (where all the oldsters who voted for Pat Buchanan by mistake or whatever it was) was barely brushed by the storm. And dealing with local Miami government is always a headache, in every matter.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 1, 2004 at 08:28 PM

OK -- I was hoping to write a doctoral thesis on the subject, maybe with a federal grant, expand it into a book, make a few million dollars, do a whirl wind book signing tour behind John Kerry, maybe spray saliva and drool in front of some congressional committee.

Now I can't, darn it. It would have fun.

Posted by: JeffS at April 2, 2004 at 12:44 AM