Richard Clarke, the former White House Counter-terrorism Chief under Presidents Clinton and Bush, and the man on duty the day the terrorists struck on 9/11 is back with another book, following on the heels of the eminently readable and very excellent In Defense of Liberty.
Clarke’s new book is entitled Your Government Failed You and is subtitled Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters.
Clarke appeared on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” on June 2nd and the segment opened with Stewart noting, “This McClellan thing is everywhere,” commenting on another blockbuster hitting bookstores, written by Scott McClellan, former Press Secretary to “W,” who has written a tell-all book entitled What Happened.
To open the interview, Stewart projected a large picture of McClellan against words he spoke on 3/22/04, while functioning as White House Press Secretary, in lambasting Clarke’s first book, the thriller In Defense of Liberty:
McClellan quote: “Well, why, all of a sudden, if he had all of these great concerns, did he not raise these sooner? This is one and one-half years after he left the administration. And now, all of a sudden, he’s raising these grave concerns he claims he had. And I think you have to look at some of the facts. Number one, he is bringing this up in the heat of a Presidential campaign. He has written a book, and he certainly wants to go out and promote that book.”
McClellan, himself, who was George W. Bush’s chief spokesman for almost three years now says—as he is trying to sell his own book—“I think the president should have stood by his word, and that meant Karl should have left.” (This was in reference to the “outing” of Valerie Plame as an undercover agent, which an investigation showed they did participate in; Bush had vowed to “fire anyone” involved, but did nothing. Scooter Libby was found guilty in court; Bush commuted his sentence. Rove continued on the job until he voluntarily withdrew.)
When Stewart mentioned to Clarke that the Swiftboating now aimed at McClellan sounded very familiar to that aimed at Clarke back in 2004, Clarke nodded assent and said, “Yes. Disgruntled former employee. Out-of-the-loop.” I think there’a little box in the White House that, if anyone escapes from the White House and tells the truth, they break this box and take out these talking points.”
Stewart: “My favorite thing is that they say, ‘That’s not the Scott we knew. The Scott we knew lied like a M****F*****. (Laughter) What, in your mind, everything that we hear is a reinforcement of the same story, that the politics ruled the day.”
Clarke: “What I’m trying to do in the book is say, look, it’s not just 9/11, it’s global warming, it’s Iraq, it’s Katrina and it’s on and on. Nothing works any more in National Security.”
Stewart: “But do you think that’s their point? These guys went in saying, ‘Government’s not the answer,’ and now, clearly, they’re showing us, I guess, the answer clearly is, ‘Well, if you guys are running it, well, I guess it’s not.'”
Clarke: “John, if you beat up on government, if you make government a political punching bag, well, that’s fine, if you don’t want government to do anything, but there’s a little thing that government has to do, like protect us. We should give that power over to the government, right? And then little children are licking Chinese toys that have lead paint. Little things that you don’t regulate, like maybe the mortgage industry, will go a little crazy.”
Stewart: “But isn’t that an odd contradiction. They advocate responsibility while usurping power?”
Clarke: “They want to be the government, so the government doesn’t do anything.”
Stewart: You believe, ‘cause I know they replaced all the Inspector Generals. That was one of their first moves.”
Clarke: “Absolutely. They appointed people to all these regulatory agencies that were supposed to regulate things to protect us. People who don’t want to regulate and people who aren’t regulating.”
Stewart: “But isn’t the Department of Homeland Security just another great regulatory bureaucracy that is not functioning, or have they created it in such a way that it can’t function? Are they paying lip service? Not that the color-coded chart is not valuable! I’m not saying that! (Laughter)”
Clarke: “They’ve put more political appointees in the Homeland Security Department, which they created after 9/11 to protect us, more political appointees in that department than any other department in the government. That’s the biggest percentage of their people. Yeah, they created this huge bureaucracy, but they didn’t solve anything.”
Stewart: “The Bush Administration was about creating a political machine that could control all the levers of government and sort of push out…their idea was the bureaucrats were the guys who would march for us.”
Clarke: “And if you’re going to the doctor or lawyer or even an auto mechanic, you want to know that they were trained, have recently been retrained, and that they’re certified and the industry has standards and procedures of accountability.”
Stewart: “See, me, I want to know what their view is on gay marriage. For me, if you’re a mechanic, I’m not letting you touch my carburetor unless you’re making sure that two men can’t love one another. Please…” (Laughter)
Clarke: “And that’s pretty much what they did with the people they sent to Iraq. The people they sent to our Embassy in Iraq, after the invasion, he (Bush) asked them, ‘What are your views on abortion?’ Half the people they sent had never been out of the country before and had to apply for passports. You want them to be able to speak Arabic—right? These guys hadn’t even been out of the country before.”
Stewart: “Is there an opportunity for the country to reclaim the mantle of competence in government?”
Clarke: “That’s what this book is about. It’s, how do you get the government to work again? And one way is to take the politics out of national security to the extent that you can.”
Stewart: “Isn’t, though, that cat out of that bag? How do you….?”
Clarke: “You grab the cat and put it back in the bag.”
Stewart: “Have you ever had a cat?”
Clarke: “No.” (Laughter).
Stewart: “It’s a really nice, straightforward, common-sense approach to the whole thing, so I think that assures that it will not be followed.”
Clarke: “Probably not.”