Earlier today on Fox News new program Fox Online, Bill Hemmer was talking to a couple of people about whether the Bush Administration is focused on the “wrong war” as Democrats are now saying.
Hemmer: Michelle, does Hamid Karzai have a way of crystalizing this argument that most politicians just can not?
Michelle Laxalt: Yes he does. I thought President Karzai’s press conference was absolutely extraordinary. As you put it, he crystalized in very brief terms what the stakes are, what the historical perspective is, even telling Americans that we should well know that we were not hit and attacked by these folks on 9/11 alone. We had suffered these attacks elsewhere in the world for years and years beforehand. There is no way to distinguish one terrorist from another. We all must fight together for the democratization of Afghanistan and Iraq and not let our guards down and not back out. I thought he was extraordinary.
Hemmer: Jay Footlik, what did you think when you heard that comment?
Jay Footlik: Listen, it points to, it underscores the importance of fighting the war on terror and not forgetting that the central focal point of this war on terror started with Afghanistan. We hear all the critics of the Democratic policy saying that we shouldn’t cut and run in Iraq and it seems as if we have cut and run in Afghanistan. The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, just asked for more help and more assistance. Perhaps he doesn’t want more troops, but there’s so much more that can be done to secure the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, more in terms of providing assistance for economic rebuilding and reconstruction of the country. There is a lot that can be done and should be done and as the National Intelligence Assesment from this own administration pointed out, the war in Afghanistan is sort of taking a secondary backburner approach to the war in Iraq.
Hemmer: You know, Jay, you’re taking us right into the next topic. This declassified document, the President announcing it last hour, live in front of the whole country for that matter, he will declassify that document allow the American people to make their own decisions, make up their own minds on this. Michelle, what did you think of that move?
Michelle Laxalt: I thought it was wise for the President to go ahead and declassify, but I thought it was more…
Hemmer: Think it ends the argument?
Michelle Laxalt: It had better end the argument. I think it opens a different argument. And that is why on earth are Americans who are within our government continuing to leak – for whatever reason; political or otherwise – classified information who could well put our people at risk. Do they believe that leaking intelligence material is going to encourage young men and women, like my daughters and sons to join our military or our intelligence community when people within our own goverment are leaking classified documents like its some sort of funny money for an election day lay-up?
Jay Footlik: But more importantly, to the substance of the National Intelligience report it directly contradicts many of the assertions that President Bush has made.
Hemmer: Have you seen it Jay?
Michelle Laxalt: Have you read the entire document?
Jay Footlik: Uh. I certainly have not. It’s obviously not been declassified yet. But everything that I have read in the press reports so far, it seems to indicate that staying the course in Iraq, the way we’re doing right now, is only emboldening the insurgency. It is not going to break their back and it goes across everything that this administration is saying about why we’re in Iraq right now.
Hemmer: We’ve got to run right now, but we’re going to all be able to see that thing real soon and make up our own minds on that. The President clearly saying that this is politics. We’re 42 days away from the mid-term election and I’m not quite sure if anyone in Washington can keep much of a secret these days. Jay thank you. Michelle, thanks to you as well.
Have you seen or read the report Jay?
No I haven’t obviously, but the press reports I’ve read….
Jay, the press that reported didn’t see it either.
The other little bit is Terry McAuliffe on The Big Story with John Gibson this afternoon.
Gibson: Did the Clinton administration do more than the Bush administration to fight terror? Let’s ask former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe, he served as head of the Democratic Party during the Clinton years. Now Terry, I’ve got a $20 bet here with the floor director that you’re not going to be on the Democratic talking points and start this by attacking Fox News or Fox reporters. Do I win?
McAuliffe: Oh you know I love Fox News. Fair and Balanced. I can’t get on it enough.
Gibson: Alright. Good. So is this a reasonable argument to be having? George Bush didn’t do what he didn’t do and Bill Clinton didn’t do what he did. Is that a reasonable thing for us to be talking about now?
McAuliffe: Well you got to put it in context John. When this first came up, when Chris asked the question, he asked it, as you know, as an accusation. President Clinton rightfully – and I’m glad he did – defended himself. He defended himself vigorously. I hope…
Gibson: What was the accusation?
McAuliffe: The way he had asked the question. Why haven’t you done more to get Bin Ladin. And my point is that Bill Clinton had done many things over the course of his term in office, George Bush didn’t and that’s just a matter of…
Gibson: But Terry, it wasn’t that long ago that David Letterman asked Bill Clinton the same question and Bill Clinton responded in a calm and reasonable way. Why this fulmination for what was the same question – you would think after that ‘Path to 9/11’ controversy a couple of weeks ago that he’d want to address the question.
McAuliffe: Well, he first of all, I would remind you this is in the middle of his Clinton Global Initiative where he just finished raising $7.5 billion to do good works throughout the world and he was told that this interview would be about the Clinton Global Initiative and he sat down and right out of the box Chris asked him the question and he defended himself and defended his administration. Many people worked very hard in that administration. And he wasn’t going to let an accusation specifically around 9/11 and Osama Bin Ladin to go unchecked and so I’m glad he reacted the way he did. I just unfortunate that the former President has to defend himself. We need more people out there fighting and getting the truth out.
Gibson: Does this help or hurt Hillary Clinton?
McAuliffe: I think anytime we’re out there fighting and telling the truth it helps. I think that it helps Hillary Clinton. Condi Rice, as you know, was out today and made statements to the New York Post. I find it very ironic that immediately her office called President Clinton’s office today to say oh, I was taken out of context. I didn’t mean what they had said. I mean, come on, she’s the Secretary of State. A word out of place here or there can start a war. Why are her people calling Bill Clinton’s office? They whack you then they call and say oh we didn’t mean to say it. I mean, come on, enough’s enough.
Gibson: Bill Clinton. What I saw was point by point. Bill Clinton said why did the Bush Administration demote Richard Clarke? She said, quite correctly, that Richard Clarke was a counterterrorism chief on 9/11. Fair point or not?
McAuliffe: Then he was demoted thereafter. I think the main point is what did Bill Clinton do versus George Bush.
Gibson: No he didn’t get a promotion. And he wanted to leave if he didn’t get the promotion. I think that’s a matter of fact. Why is not a fair point for Condi Rice to say, wait a minute, he was in charge of counterterrorism the day of the attack?
McAuliffe: I’m the one telling you today that Condi Rice’s office called Bill Clinton’s basically to apologize and didn’t mean to escalate anything so obviously she felt uncomfortable with what was reported in the newspaper today. And the issue is what did they do in eight months. Did Condi Rice have any meetings on terrorism? They wanted to build a very expensive missile defense system. They did nothing about terrorism. Whatever Bill Clinton did they wanted to go the other way. They did nothing and when George Bush on August 6th was given a brief that said Osama Bin Ladin/Al Qaeda to attack U.S. George Bush went golfing. They didn’t do anything. That’s just a fact. We’ve got to go on forward from there.
Gibson: But Terry, you’re talking about that Presidential Daily Brief of October, August 6th, 2001? I’m holding the Presidential Daily Brief of December 4th, 1998 directed to Bill Clinton.
McAuliffe: Yes sir.
Gibson: Bin Ladin and his allies preparing for attacks in the U.S. including aircraft hijacking. What’s the difference? Both got the same warning.
McAuliffe: Okay. Great point. Thank you John for raising that and let me tell you what they did. They immediately, the CIA was instructed to brief the FBI. They immediately contacted New York, the JFK, the international airports in New York where they had heard an idea that this would be happening. They went on high alert at the airports in New York. All FBI agents in the East coast of the United States of America were immediately put on high alert and the FAA was alerted that Al Qaeda may try to highjack an airplane. What did George Bush do? He went golfing. He did nothing.
Gibson: Terry, Steve Call [ph] of the Washington Post, no friend of the Bush administration, wrote in February of 2004 and I quote the lead graph: “Between 1998 and 2000 the CIA and President Bill Clinton’s National Security team were caught up in a paralyzing policy dispute as they secretly debated the legal permissions for covert operations against Osama Bin Ladin in Afghanistan.” That is essentially what Chris Wallace was asking. Why were you caught up in paralyzing debates instead of doing more.
McAuliffe: I don’t think they were caught up in paralyzing debates nor did Bill Clinton and that’s why he reacted because the Washington Post – and I disagree sometimes you write them you think they might be in with Fox News too – but just because some reporter or journalist writes that doesn’t mean it. But the 9/11 report after the ’98 Presidential brief they convened their counterterrrorism group for a meeting. My point is, and when George Bush got it he was in Texas, he took more vacation than any president ever in the first year in office, did absolutely nothing and when they had him in Tora Bora they let him walk out of Tora Bora.
Gibson: Terry, you’re telling me that the Washington Post former high placed editor, Steve Call, is the same as Fox News? You’d say he’s in league with Fox News in some kind of plot against Bill Clinton?
McAuliffe: I’d not say a plot against Bill Clinton but I’ll tell you this, I’ll hold the Washington Post, the New York Times and many other newspapers in this country liable for not doing a better job of exposing the weapons of mass destruction and allowing us to go into a wrong war in Iraq.
Gibson: Terry, he wrote that there was little question that under U.S. law it was permissible to kill Bin Ladin and his top aides. And yet the Clinton Administration at this time was stuck in what he called “paralyzing debates”.
McAuliffe: John, I ask you to go to the 9/11 Commission Report. Bipartisan. It talks about what Bill Clinton did after the December 1998 versus George Bush’s report in September and August and he did nothing about it. I mean that’s the basic fact and George Bush had Osama Bin Ladin. He had him in Tora Bora. They called, asked for more troops, they weren’t given the troops. We allowed him to walk out of Tora Bora. Then they disband the operation that’s in charge of getting Osama Bin Ladin out of the CIA. Gibson: Facts are facts Terry. If that’s a fact, then it’s also a fact that President Clinton was paralyzed in debate. Terry McAuliffe, as always, thank you.
All emphasis in the McAuliffe interview mine.