Lost in all of the discussion of former President Clinton's blow-up on FOX News this weekend was the fact that what he said is essentially correct, and in fact mirrors some of what I have written in the past. And in some cases, there is much more that Bill Clinton could have said.
A good example is the fact that conservatives were always happy to add lack of a response to the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole to the list of what Clinton supposedly didn't do anything about.
Yesterday Clinton said that the reason he didn't order military operations after the Cole bombing was because the intelligence agencies involved had not yet 'certified' that it was done by al-Qaeda (certainly a valid concern-- we know that the Iranians had carried out the Khobar towers bombing, and there are plenty of other organizations and governments in the world who might wish us ill; if the goal is to make a point that such an action brings about a response, then it has to be made vs. the right target.) In fact, he could have said a lot more. Recall that the Cole bombing was carried out in October of 2000. If he had ordered an immediate response, do you think the right would have supported him? Of course not. Instead, they would have accused him of manipulating the news in order to help Al Gore win the November election (which, given the closeness of that election and the historic rallying around the current administration when they take such military action, very probably would have happened.) And if he waited until after the election? Well, then they would have said it was to 'distract attention' away from their attempt, ultimately successful, to stop the recount of disputed ballots in Florida. By the time that Gore conceded the election on December 13, 2000, there was only a month left in the Clinton administration and leaving what to do about the Cole up to the Bush administration made a lot of sense. But regardless of all of that, if you want to say that Bill Clinton did nothing about the Cole attack during his final three months in office, you may say that, but then answer why the Bush administration did nothing about it in the following eight months. That is a question that Bill Clinton asked last night, and frankly no one (except for myself, who has posted it on a number of blogs) has asked since then.
Then there is the matter of the bombing of the bin Laden camps on August 18, 1998. The date, eleven days after the African embassy bombings, was carefully selected because on that date there was a meeting of senior al-Qaeda leadership being held. Even though it occurred less than two weeks after a series of bombings that killed hundreds of people at our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the right wing did not support Bill Clinton on that. As I wrote last year, Republicans did not support him but complained that the attacks took a headline away from the 'all-important Monica scandal.' As it happened on that very day, Ms. Lewinsky was giving a deposition in a courtroom in New York City. Now, let's be clear here-- the Lewinsky scandal had no importance at all in any matter of policy at all, except as a partisan embarrassment to the President. But apparently an attempt-- though unfortunately unsuccessful-- to get bin Laden was the wrong thing for Bill Clinton to do that day, because it interfered with the news cycle and nothing was as important as finding out any new lurid details that might be revealed from Ms. Lewinsky's depostion (or in fact, a chance to simply splash the same old details across the front page if there were no new ones.) Clinton made this point too, though he was handicapped by the fact that he could not say, 'Monica,' so he said, 'wag the dog.' But anyone who was watching the news in 1998 knows that that means.
I've had my disagreements with Bill Clinton in the past. But it was refreshing to hear him confront some of the more viscious lies that have been told about him directly.