The Spectacle Blog

Clinton vs. Bush

By on 9.29.06 | 10:30AM

In a column about Bill Clinton's recent outburst, E.J. Dionne writes:

By choosing to intervene in the terror debate in a way that no one could miss, Clinton/>/> forced an argument about the past that had up to now been largely a one-sided propaganda war waged by the right.

It's absolutely preposterous for Dionne to argue that the debate over who was to blame for 9/11 has been dominated by the right. Yes, this month, especially with the controversy generated by the airing of ABC's "Path to 9/11," there has been a lot of conservative criticism of Clinton/>/>'s record on terrorism. But to say that the debate over the past five years has been one-sided is absurd. How many times have we heard in the mainstream media that Richard Clarke handed the Bush administration a plan for "rolling back" the al Qaeda threat and that it was dismissed? That Clarke couldn't get a meeting on counterterrorism strategy, because the Bush administration didn't see it as a priority? That Bush was too busy relaxing on his Texas/>/> ranch to read "Bin Laden Determined To Attack U.S./>/>"? That 9/11 could have been avoided if Bush acted on the intelligence we had? If anything Clinton has been getting a free pass on terrorism, especially given the fact that al Qaeda grew for eight years while he was President, and he was Commander-in-Chief during the first World Trade Center bombing, the Khobar Towers bombing, the U.S. Embassy bombings, and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.

With that said, it's important that conservatives don't get sucked into the debate of "who is more to blame for 9/11." In my view, President Bush's record on terrorism in the first eight months of his administration is abysmal. The truth is, prior to 9/11, the nation as a whole didn't take terrorism seriously. Aside from some wise sages, we generally viewed it as a manageable risk. There is a value in pointing out the mistakes that were made by both administrations prior to 9/11, but only to make sure people do not return to the mindset of the 1990s, which is a greater risk the further we get from 9/11 without a major terrorist attack. Already, there is a growing chorus of thinkers, who I have written about before, who simply don't think terrorism is a big deal. We can't let that sentiment become a dominant one. That's the intellectual battle we should be fighting rather than arguing about whose pre-9/11 record was worse.

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