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March 24, 2004
Tricksy President
"Had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September 11th, we would have acted."

This is the clip of Bush I kept seeing all day today. That's the denial of Clarke's charges from the leader of the free world (shudder).

It's one of the most narrowly phrased, ridiculous excuses for a real statement I've ever heard, and yet I've seen no news organization follow up this clip with anything. They show it as if it's a fair rebuttal to Clarke's accusations and that's that.

They never point out that the president is carefully avoiding the point of the accusations. By specifically citing September 11 and New York City, he's changed the broad and complex questions of how his administration responded to terrorist threats, general or specific, and made it a singularly narrow and simplistic question about whether they knew one piece of information, which they surely didn't.

What if they had information that terrorists were planning some kind of major attack on a large American target, in the very near future as Clarke alleges? I haven't heard anyone say that we knew about the specific details, let alone the exact date and location, of the 9/11 attacks. The whole point is that if earlier intelligence reports and warnings had been taken more seriously and acted upon more swiftly, we may have discovered the plot, exactly as the plot to blow up LAX was foiled in December of 1999.

But the president sits there and makes a statement which amounts to absolutely nothing, carefully choosing words which cannot be refuted and yet completely obscure and distract from the real issues.

I know why he does it, I just don't know why he gets away with it.


Previous Comments

To me, Bush's comment is comparable to Nixon saying "I am not a crook."