Richard Clarke did something quite remarkable and commendable the other day during his sworn testimony before the 9/11 commission – he apologized. He may be the first, and only, government official to offer a sincere apology to the family members of the 9/11 victims.
“Your government failed you … and I failed you,” Clarke said. “We tried hard, but that doesn’t matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask … for your understanding and for your forgiveness.”
That simple act of contrition effectively knocked the wind out of Clarke’s critics and endeared him to the 9/11 families attending the hearings.
The Bush administration’s attempts to defame and discredit Clarke have been unconvincing so far to all but the most partisan Bushophiles. 30 years of government service starting with the Reagan administration combined with his hawkish reputation during that period makes it a hard sell to dismiss Clarke as a partisan Democrat. In fact, Clarke is a registered Republican, although one who voted for John McCain in 2000.
Clarke has been critical of the Clinton administration as well when it comes to counter-terrorism issues. But during Clinton’s eight years in office, Clarke at least had the ear of senior administration officials and was even given a cabinet level position. That changed, however, when the new Bush team moved in intent on wiping clean anything with the taint of the Clinton’s including the new-found emphasis on anti-terrorism.
The Bush team was too busy pushing for tax cuts and gearing up to re-fight the Gulf War to give much credence to Clarke’s alarmist rhetoric about terroristic threats from a shadowy group with the strange name of al-Qaeda. The Center for American Progress is currently running a contest to see if anyone can provide an example of Bush, Cheney or Rice mentioning by name al-Qaeda or bin Laden prior to 9/11.