Just checked in with one of my pro-war, pro-Bush national security expert friends. Here’s what I learned:
1. Clarke is the real deal.
2. What he says is convincing.
3. What he says makes the Bush team look very bad.
4. What Cheney says about Clarke is a pack of lies.
My friend’s parting comment: “Do I really still have to be for these guys?”
Update Some of the slime-and-defend is going to really outrageous lengths. (See this summary of White House mendacity about Clarke from the Center for American Progress. It turns out that Cheney’s claim in his Rush Limbaugh interview that Clarke had been moved from counterterrorism to cybersecurity was contradicted by a White House press release issued yesterday.)
Glenn Reynolds thinks that the fact that Clark was concerned about Iranian-backed terrorism as well as al-Qaeda proves that Clarke was confused. Well, someone’s confused, that’s for sure. Maybe it’s me.
Second update Apparently Clark’s book was delayed for three months by the White House clearance process. (As the holder of a security clearance, he had to submit his manuscript for pre-publication review.) As Atrios notes, that makes the White House complaints about timing of hte book look a little bit chutzpadig. But the Bush approach is always to respond to an accusation with an attack on the accuser, hoping to change the subject. It’s remarkable how often it works, too.
Third update: Phil Carter, in a typically thoughtful and well-informed post, emphasizes the utter thinness of the WH response to Clarke: all “counter-battery fire,” no attempt to discuss the substance of the charges. Carter finds the White House defense more devastating to its own cause than Clarke’s attack:
Don’t you think it’s odd that the White House counter-terrorism czar would be out of the loop when it came to meetings about counter-terrorism policy? And doesn’t it say something about the war with Iraq that the counter-terrorism advisor was not part of the decisionmaking process? …
To me, it says three things. First, that Ron Suskind’s reporting is right — this White House really is run by its political offices (instead of its policy people). Second, that the opinions of professional policy people are probably less valued in this White House than is the norm. Third, that terrorism per se was not the raison d’etre for Operation Iraqi Freedom — and that it never was a significant part of the decision to go to war.
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) thinks slime & defend isn’t good enough:
This is a serious book written by a serious professional who’s made serious charges, and the White House must respond to these charges. (Of course, Hagel also doesn’t think John Kerry is weak on defense. Maybe he’s a liberal, or is trying to sell a book.)