The recent findings of a Newsweek poll have been dubbed a blow for President Bush. With Richard Clarke’s media whirlwind, I’m not surprised. For a former official that no one had even heard of until his transcendence to the top of American election politics with a new book accusing Bush of not taking seriously the terrorist threat, Clarke’s certainly getting his 15 minutes of fame.
And poll numbers show that his promotional attack on the Bush administration is doing damage.
As Newsweek put it, “the percentage of voters who say they approve of the way the president has handled terrorism and homeland security has slid to 57 percent, down from a high of 70 percent two months ago.”
Furthermore, over 40 percent of Americans want Bush to testify about the terror threat in public. This while 50 percent of those polled say Clarke’s attacks are motivated by a personal or political agenda.
Even so, the big loser in the new poll is former President Clinton. Indeed, 65 percent of Americans believe Clinton did not take a terrorist threat seriously enough, compared with 61 percent support for President Bush.
The former might have something to do with waiving off a 1998 mission to capture or kill al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden.
But for all of Clarke’s pointed criticism, the media has been slow to pick up on the fact that Clarke is successfully playing the American public to sell books.
In a resignation letter written by Clarke to President Bush, Clarke praised the president.
“I will always remember the courage, determination, calm, and leadership you demonstrated on September 11th,” Clarke wrote.
Clarke’s prior support of the president is also found elsewhere. According to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, two-year-old testimony given by Clarke contradicts his more recent assertions.
The Republican Party now seeks to declassify Clarke’s former testimony in order to show inconsistencies between his old and current claims.
Sadly, though, some are still buying Clarke’s story. As the saying goes, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. In this case, it’s hard to see the book sales and election-year politics for the inconsistencies and political posturing.
Update: Clarke on Larry King Live today addressed precisely the fact that the media has been slow to react to his criticism of the Clinton administration while harping his criticism of the Bush administration. He specifically mentioned the 1998 failure.
While I applaud him for that, it does not take away from the fact that he has been on both sides of the aisle in praising and criticizing the Bush administration’s handling of the war on terror.