|This is the interview that the left and the right are buzzing about. The left say that Clinton schooled Mike Wallace – the Right say that Clinton lost his cool and looked like an idiot.
I say it’s just plain entertaining.
Update: Here is USA Today’s transcript of this portion of the interview…
Wallace: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I have to say I was surprised, most of them wanted me to ask you this question. Why didn’t you do more to put bin Laden and al-Qaeda out of business when you were president? There’s a new book out, I suspect you may have already read, called The Looming Tower. And it talks about the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, bin Laden said “I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of U.S. troops.” Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the Cole.
Clinton: OK let’s just —
Wallace: May I just finish the question sir? And after the attack, the book says, that bin Laden separated his leaders, spread them around because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is always 20/20 —
Clinton: No, let’s talk about it.
Wallace: But the question is, why didn’t you connect the dots and put him out of business?
Clinton: Let’s talk about it. I will answer all those things on the merits, but first I want to talk about the context in which this arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network. ABC just had a right-wing conservative running their little pathway to 9/11, falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 commission report with three things asserted against me directly contradictory to the 9/11 commission report. And I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who
All of President Bush’s neo-cons that I was too obsessed with bin Laden, they had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say I didn’t do enough, said
OK, now let’s look at all the criticisms, Black Hawk Down, Somalia, there is not a living soul in the
Wallace: I understand.
Clinton: No, no, wait. Don’t tell me that — you asked me why didn’t I do more to bin Laden, there was not a living soul, all the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day. You brought this up, so you get an answer. But you — secondly …
Wallace: .. bin Laden says, but it showed the weakness of the United States.
Clinton: Bin Laden may have said it — but it would have shown the weakness if we left right away. But he wasn’t involved in that, that’s just a bunch of bull. That was about Muhammad Aidid, a Muslim warlord, murdering 22 Pakistani Muslim troops. We were all there on a humanitarian mission; we had no mission, none, to establish a certain kind of Somali government or keep anybody out. He was not a religious fanatic …
Wallace: Mr. President …
Clinton: … there was no al-Qaeda …
Wallace: With respect, if I may, instead of going through ’93 and …
Clinton: No, no — you asked it. You brought it up.
Wallace: May I ask you (INAUDIBLE) question, and then you can answer?
Wallace: The 9/11 commission, which you talk about — and this is what they did say, not what ABC pretended they said …
Clinton: What did they say?
Wallace: They said, about you and President Bush, and I quote, “The U.S. government took the threat seriously, but not in the sense of mustering anything like the kind of effort that would be gathered to confront an enemy of the first, second or even third rank.”
Clinton: First of all, that’s not true with us and bin Laden.
Wallace: Well, I’m telling … (CROSS TALK)
Clinton: Let’s see what Richard Clarke said. Do you think Richard Clarke has a vigorous attitude about bin Laden?
Wallace: Yes, I do.
Clinton: You do, don’t you?
Wallace: He has a variety of opinions and loyalties, but yes. (CROSS TALK)
Clinton: He has a variety of opinions and loyalties now, but let’s look at the facts: he worked for Ronald Reagan, he was loyal with him; he worked for George H.W. Bush, he was loyal to him; he worked for me, and he was loyal to me; he worked for President Bush, he was loyal to him. They downgraded him and the terrorist operation.
Now, look what he said — read his book and read his factual assertions — not opinions, assertions. He said we took vigorous action after the African embassies, we probably nearly got bin Laden …
Wallace: But what …
Clinton: Now, wait a minute — wait, wait, wait. (CROSS TALK)
No, no — I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The CIA was run by George Tenet that President (Bush) gave the medal of freedom to, and he said he did a good job setting up all these counter terrorism things. The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came there.
Now if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: after the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan — which we got after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible. While I was there, they refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred special forces in in helicopters, refuel at night. Even the 9/11 commission didn’t do that.
Now, the 9/11 commission was a political document, too. All I’m asking is, anybody that wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book …
Wallace: Do you think you did enough, sir?
Clinton: No, because I didn’t get him.
Clinton: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clark, who got demoted.