Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 14, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: National Disgrace

From a review of Sid Blumenthal's new book by Joseph Lelyveld in the New York Review of Books, hardly a conservative source, on Blumenthal's account of Kosovo:

Even after the staff has been shaken up and Clinton is supposedly master in his own house, speechwriters stick a line promising not to use ground troops in Kosovo in his speech to the nation and Sandy Berger, his national security adviser, fails to take it out. Clinton, we are told, is furious because his options have been limited (though it then takes him more than two months to allow other options to be prepared). Berger is "snookered" by the Pentagon when it forces the NATO commander who had been too blunt in his demand for ground troops, General Wesley Clark, into retirement. "I'd like to kill somebody," Clinton tells Blumenthal.

Um, shouldn't the President of the United States read his own policy speeches before he gives them? Or was he too busy on other parts of the speech to care about the national defense parts? You know, the boring stuff? (And remember, this is an account by one of Clinton's friends).

And this:

You never know where the buck will stop. Clinton, it seems, is a prisoner of his own administration, in addition to having to face a baying press and savage opposition. Nowhere is this more the case than in the President's "intense battle with terrorism, a mostly secret war that was largely screened from the public." FBI director Louis Freeh, a Clinton appointee, becomes "a prime mover of scandal promotion against the Clinton administration," to the point that "Freeh's hostility to the White House dictated his lack of cooperation with the war against bin Laden." Clinton wants to do more than fire a few cruise missiles at the al-Qaeda leader; he wants to drop special ops troops into the mountains of Afghanistan in a surprise attack. Powell's successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Henry Shelton, recoils from his commander in chief's idea, saying such an attack would be too risky.

Clinton could always have fired Freeh, if he really believed this and thought the war on terrorism was as important as the battle for high approval ratings. Obviously, he didn't.

And who says a president can't overrule his military commanders? Nobody told George W. Bush that.

(Link via The American Scene)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:19 AM | Politics 2002-03 • | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

I wish he had fired Freeh, but he didn't because it would have meant walking into a political bear-trap. The Republicans would have dressed it up in Nixonian garb, and it would have created a new scandal all its own. It was a lack of political courage, yes, and I wish he would have stood up and done the right thing, but you have to admit that a pack of rabid dogs waiting to tear out your spleen (Gingrich's House of Representatives) tends to impair one's judgment.

I'm puzzled by the bit about Clinton being furious that the speech wasn't changed. Wasn't changed where? If Sid's saying that the speech went up on the tele-prompter with the objectionable sentence in there, Clinton could just have skipped it. Ad-libbing speeches is nothing new for any President, particularly not Clinton. [Bush ad-libbed a key detail of his speech before the UN when it was mysteriously left out of the final version.]

But if the speech, with the incorrect language, was sent out to the press before he gave the speech, that would tie his hands. And, I'm speculating around insufficient detail, but if he told the speechwriters that line was to be taken out, and they didn't do it (through incompetence, intent, or whatever), you can't blame that on Clinton. I don't know if that's what happened, but to imply that Clinton was negligent with his own speeches is, I think, a bit beyond what the quoted material suggests.

I suppose the titular "national disgrace" is Clinton himself. I can't see any other relevance to the title. Just goes to show, one man's national disgrace is another man's greatest president since FDR.

Posted by: Drew Vogel at May 14, 2003 5:43 PM
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