Clarke Manhandled The Bush Apologists Today
But perhaps the best account and analysis came from Dana Milbank of the Post, whose editors notably gave him the Page One slot in tomorrow's paper to also recount how Clarke blew up former Illinois GOP governor Jim Thompson and shut up former Reagan Navy Secretary John Lehman.
Shortly before the hearing, the White House violated its long-standing rules by authorizing Fox News to air remarks favorable to Bush that Clarke had made anonymously at an administration briefing in 2002. The White House press secretary read passages from the 2002 remarks at his televised briefing, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who has declined to give public testimony to the commission, called reporters into her office to highlight the discrepancy. "There are two very different stories here," she said. "These stories can't be reconciled."
Back at the hearing, former Illinois governor James R. Thompson, a Republican member of the commission, took up the cause, waving the Fox News transcript with one hand and Clarke's critical book in the other. "Which is true?" Thompson demanded, folding his arms and glowering down at the witness.
Clarke, appearing unfazed by the apparent contradiction between his current criticism and previous praise, spoke to Thompson as if addressing a slow student.
"I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done, and to minimize the negative aspects of what the administration had done," he explained. "I've done it for several presidents."
With each effort by Thompson to highlight Clarke's inconsistency -- "the policy on Uzbekistan, was it changed?" -- Clarke tutored the commissioner about the obligations of a White House aide. Thompson, who had far exceeded his allotted time, frowned contemptuously. "I think a lot of things beyond the tenor and the tone bother me about this," he said. During a second round of questioning, Thompson returned to the subject, questioning Clarke's "standard of candor and morality."
"I don't think it's a question of morality at all; I think it's a question of politics," Clarke snapped.
Thompson had to wait for Sept. 11 victims' relatives in the gallery to stop applauding before he pleaded ignorance of the ways of Washington. "I'm from the Midwest, so I think I'll leave it there," he said. Moments later, Thompson left the hearing room and did not return.
Make him sit in a corner with a dunce cap from now on, because after what Clarke did to him today, he can't come into the room without being greeted with whispers of "weenie."
The gallery drew quiet when Lehman questioned Clarke. "I have genuinely been a fan of yours," he began, and then he said how he had hoped Clarke would be "the Rosetta Stone" for the commission. "But now we have the book," Lehman said, suggesting it was a partisan tract.
Clarke was ready for that challenge. "Let me talk about partisanship here, since you raised it," he said, noting that he registered as a Republican in 2000 and served President Ronald Reagan. "The White House has said that my book is an audition for a high-level position in the Kerry campaign," Clarke said. "So let me say here, as I am under oath, that I will not accept any position in the Kerry administration, should there be one."
When Clarke finished his answer, there was a long pause, and the gallery was silent. Lehman smiled slightly and nodded. He had no further questions.
Say goodnight all. Sure, the whores in the media who have their White House kneepads will still spin this tomorrow along the lines of the White House talking points. But the whitewashers hand-selected by Bush for just this moment got bent over today and whipped. Worse than that, the Post gave Milbank a Page One slot to spread that message all inside the Beltway tomorrow.