Back at the hearing, former Illinois governor James R. Thompson, a Republican member of the commission, took up the cause, waving the Fox News transcript with one hand and Clarke’s critical book in the other. “Which is true?” Thompson demanded, folding his arms and glowering down at the witness.
Clarke, appearing unfazed by the apparent contradiction between his current criticism and previous praise, spoke to Thompson as if addressing a slow student.
“I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done, and to minimize the negative aspects of what the administration had done,” he explained. “I’ve done it for several presidents.”
With each effort by Thompson to highlight Clarke’s inconsistency — “the policy on Uzbekistan, was it changed?” — Clarke tutored the commissioner about the obligations of a White House aide. Thompson, who had far exceeded his allotted time, frowned contemptuously. “I think a lot of things beyond the tenor and the tone bother me about this,” he said. During a second round of questioning, Thompson returned to the subject, questioning Clarke’s “standard of candor and morality.”
“I don’t think it’s a question of morality at all; I think it’s a question of politics,” Clarke snapped.
Thompson had to wait for Sept. 11, 2001, victims’ relatives in the gallery to stop applauding before he pleaded ignorance of the ways of Washington. “I’m from the Midwest, so I think I’ll leave it there,” he said. Moments later, Thompson left the hearing room and did not return.