Reading former National Security Council aide Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies–Inside America’s Terror War, one half expects the omnipresent author to describe himself showing up in Philadelphia in 1776 to draft the original version of the Declaration of Independence–only to have it hopelessly rewritten by right-wing dolts like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.
By Clarke’s account (see page 2 and page 6), he played a key role in many of the most significant national security crises of the last quarter-century. Things went well when his advice was heeded; disaster ensued when it was not.
The place one would not expect to find Clarke–from reading his book, anyway–is in a voting booth in 2000 pulling the lever for a Republican presidential candidate. But, testifying last week before the national commission probing the September 11 terrorist attacks, Clarke says he did just that.
“I’m not working for the Kerry campaign,” Clarke protested when former Navy Secretary John Lehman suggested some might perceive Clarke as having a partisan agenda. “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.”
Blaming America First
Hearing this on TV, I tried my best to suspend disbelief when I started reading Clarke’s book. Perhaps it really was a serious national security study written by a hawkish Republican, who had public policy–not partisan political–differences with the Bush Administration.
Then I read Chapter 1. That’s where Clarke, narrating the events of September 11, introduces Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.
“Mrs. Cheney was more than just a family member who had to be protected,” writes Clarke. “Like her husband, she was a right-wing ideologue and she was offering her advice and opinions in the bunker.”
On the next page, Clarke says of the Vice President: “Below that surface of calm ran strong, almost extreme, beliefs. He had been one of the five most radical conservatives in Congress.”
Make no mistake: The Cheneys are conservatives. But how likely do you think it is that an environmentalist Democratic aide in the Clinton White House would have referred to Tipper Gore as, say, an environmentalist wacko? Or noted that Al Gore had been one of the five most radical leftists in the Senate?
Answer that and you’ll know how earnestly “Republican” is Richard Clarke.
In Against All Enemies, hagiographies of hallowed leftists are followed by demonizations of accursed conservatives.
If Lynn Cheney is the kind of Second Lady who would have the effrontery to offer an opinion in a bunker, what sort of First Lady was Hillary Clinton? Secretly saintly, implies Clarke.
He describes the scene at a hotel near Kennedy Airport, where President and Mrs. Clinton went to meet the families of victims of the TWA 800 disaster. “I opened the door to the next room, which had been set up as a chapel,” writes Clark. “Alone in the room, on her knees, Mrs. Clinton was praying.”
But when it came to piety, Hillary had nothing on Janet Reno. “She had shown incredible public courage in taking the blame for the disastrous siege of the religious cultists at Waco, Tex.,” Clarke writes, referring to the incident in which Clinton’s attorney general ordered the tear gas attack on the Branch Davidian compound that sparked the conflagration that resulted in the deaths of more than 70 people, including many children.
Taking credit for that showed “courage,” says this “Republican.” But John Ashcroft’s manner of defending the Patriot Act is something else entirely. In Clarke’s view, that understandably raised the specter of the Third Reich. Writes Clarke of Ashcroft: “The Attorney General, rather than bringing us together, managed to persuade much of the country that the needed reforms of the Patriot Act were actually the beginning of fascism.”
Speaking of Evil Empires, Clarke even betrays ambivalence as to just how evil global Communism was.
Referring to Robert Gallucci, a member of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, Clarke casually states: “Gallucci and I had both been anti-Vietnam War protestors in the 1960s.”
While comparing the War on Terror to the Cold War, he says: “In retrospect, some (particularly those born after 1970) believe America overreacted to the Cold War threat. At the time, however, it seemed an existential struggle, the depth of which is now difficult for many to recall or understand.”
Oh, really? Who finds it difficult to understand that when a Godless empire aims thousands of nuclear warheads at your cities you are in “an existential struggle”? Only unreconstructed liberals–with whom this “Republican” Clarke obviously has deep empathy.
Partisans of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry may ludicrously persist in portraying this man who reached the apex of his career in the Clinton White House as a Republican hawk. But, in his book, Clarke himself vividly paints his vision for a Blame-America-First Aquarian Age–that age that might have been, he suggests, if only a Clinton had ruled again.
Drawing a contrast with George W. Bush’s aggressive approach to the war on terror, Clark says: “Others (Clinton, the first Bush, Carter, Ford) might have tried to understand the phenomenon of terrorism, what led 15 Saudis and four others to commit suicide to kill Americans. Others might have tried to build a world consensus to address the root causes, while using the moment to force what had been lethargic or doubting governments to arrest known terrorists and close front organizations. One can imagine Clinton trying one more time to force an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, going to Saudi Arabia and addressing the Muslim people in a moving appeal for religious tolerance . . .”
Yeah, right, Dick. Then all of us “Republicans” could have sat down with Bill, Hillary and Osama bin Laden and sung endless choruses of Give Peace a Chance.