9.24.2006

Clinton's interview obscures real debate

I watched Chris Wallace's interview with former President Clinton today, and I have to say that I was very surprised by the President's reaction.

First off, I don't blame President Clinton for 9/11. No one, and I mean no one, in the 1990s realized how much of a threat Bin Laden and Al Qaeda really were. There are a lot of people who should have connected the dots but didn't.

However, I was struck by how personally Clinton took the question about Bin Laden. He became extremely defensive and lashed out at Wallace as taking orders from right-wing leaders. Clinton complained about everything and everyone it seemed and was more concerned about another "right-wing conspiracy" that is out to damage his legacy.

I understand President Clinton's concern about his legacy. For an attack like 9/11 to occur so shortly after his presidency, there surely must have been planning and training taking place during his time in office. I suspect that Clinton feels some sort of guilt for not doing enough to prevent it. He even admitted that he "tried and failed" to catch or kill Bin Laden. Had he stopped there, I believe he would have come across extremely well, but instead he went the extra step to qualify his answers with "they failed, too."

It really is a shame that instead of being humble or contrite, President Clinton chose to lash out at his critics. Instead of staying above the partisan bickering, he chose to jump in the middle of it. Instead of putting this behind him, he will only make it worse for himself.

President Clinton's response also only obscures what the debate should be all about. The real debate should not be about who is to blame for the attacks on 9/11, but rather about how to deal with the threats now.

No one truly understood the threat we faced before 9/11, but now that we do let's deal with it and not point fingers.