July 23, 2003

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Bill Clinton actually acted Presidential last night on Larry King (I'm sure it wasn't out of the goodness of his heart, but whatever the reasons, I'm glad he said it)

KING: President, maybe I can get an area where you may disagree. Do you join, President Clinton, your fellow Democrats, in complaining about the portion of the State of the Union address that dealt with nuclear weaponry in Africa?

CLINTON: Well, I have a little different take on it, I think, than either side.

First of all, the White House said -- Mr. Fleischer said -- that on balance they probably shouldn't have put that comment in the speech. What happened, often happens. There was a disagreement between British intelligence and American intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence that said it. And then they said, well, maybe they shouldn't have put it in.

Let me tell you what I know. When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. That is, at the end of the first Gulf War, we knew what he had. We knew what was destroyed in all the inspection processes and that was a lot. And then we bombed with the British for four days in 1998. We might have gotten it all; we might have gotten half of it; we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know. So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don't cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions.

I mean, we're all more sensitive to any possible stocks of chemical and biological weapons. So there's a difference between British -- British intelligence still maintains that they think the nuclear story was true. I don't know what was true, what was false. I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying, Well, we probably shouldn't have said that. And I think we ought to focus on where we are and what the right thing to do for Iraq is now. That's what I think.

Quite a difference from the nutball performance of Charlie Rangel last night on H&C. More on that later though.

For the rest of what Clinton said, click "MORE"...

KING: What do you do, Mr. President, with what's put in front of you?

CLINTON: Well, here's what happens: every day the president gets a daily brief from the CIA. And then, if it's some important issue -- and believe me, you know, anything having to do with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons became much more important to everybody in the White House after September the 11 -- then they probably told the president, certainly Condoleezza Rice, that this is what the British intelligence thought. They maybe have a difference of opinion, but on balance, they decided they should leave that line in the speech.

I think the main thing I want to say to you is, people can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks...

... of biological and chemical weapons. We might have destroyed them in '98. We tried to, but we sure as heck didn't know it because we never got to go back in there….

And what I think -- again, I would say the most important thing is we should focus on what's the best way to build Iraq as a democracy? How is the president going to do that and deal with continuing problems in Afghanistan and North Korea?

We should be pulling for America on this. We should be pulling for the people of Iraq. We can have honest disagreements about where we go from here, and we have space now to discuss that in what I hope will be a nonpartisan and open way. But this State of the Union deal they decided to use the British intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence. Then they said on balance they shouldn't have done it. You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. I mean, you can't make as many calls as you have to make without messing up once in awhile. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now. That's what I think.

Posted by Ithildin at July 23, 2003 7:44 AM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE

Bubba behaving himself, this is extremely rare indeed...

Posted by: Paul Jané at July 23, 2003 2:32 PM

Uh huh

Posted by: Ith at July 24, 2003 2:59 PM