I once wrote that former president Bill Clinton was Jethro Bodine (of “The Beverly Hillbillies”) with a college diploma. In brief, he is a dimorphic self-absorbed hillbilly – unable to control his diminutive interest and its obsession with White House interns – who actually did “gadgiate” from the sixth grade.
His penchant for pontification is second only to his lust for fat, greasy foods. So while it comes as no surprise, it is no less offensive to hear him revel in the dim light of his own opinion regarding how he handled things (pun intended) while in office.
His latest being that during his “exit interview,” he had instructed president Bush that Osama bin Laden was the greatest security threat facing the United States. This revelation was made (read: “staged”) at a History Channel sponsored luncheon. Clinton claimed his inability to convince Bush of the danger al-Qaida represented: “One of the two or three biggest disappointments that I had.”
Clinton’s comments, even if true, were nothing more than a pitiful attempt to assert himself as politically relevant. It is appalling to listen and watch Clinton revise and distort the factual history of his administration. In a column I wrote Nov. 8, 2001 – “Did Clinton let bin Laden get away?” – I referenced columnist Richard Miniter’s Opinion Journal piece (Oct. 8, 2001) that President Bashir of Sudan in the spring of 1996 offered to arrest, detain and hand over bin Laden to the United States.
At the time I wrote this column, Clinton was telling any and all who would listen how his administration had come close to apprehending bin Laden several times, only to see him slip through their grasp at the last moment.
The truth is Clinton didn’t care back then and he only cares now because it gives him an undeserved sense of importance.
The Bashir government had compiled intelligence of bin Laden’s daily activities, as well as detailed intelligence concerning his finances. But Clinton’s administration refused Khartoum’s offer. Steve Simon, then director of counter-terrorism, told the Washington Post: “I really cared about one thing; that was getting [bin Laden] out of Sudan.”
The Clinton administration’s position was they didn’t care to whom Khartoum handed him over, or where he went, as long as he got out of Sudan. Accepting Bashir’s offer may have prevented 9-11. Instead, his administration focused on buying time instead of fighting terrorism – and that for their own selfish reasons.
In February 2002, while addressing a business group, Clinton sophistically stated: “We’d been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start meeting with them again. They released him. At that time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him”
Clinton told the group that he declined the Sudanese offer to extradite bin Laden, “[Even] though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America.”
An interesting perspective by a former sitting president, considering that in 1993 America had experienced the first World Trade Center bombing. In 1995, America lost military personnel in a Saudi Arabia bombing. And in 1996, we suffered tragedy in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and the Khobar Towers. Yet, in Clinton’s mind, they had “no basis on which to hold him.”
Scott Lehigh writing for the Boston Globe (“Clinton’s mishandling of terrorism could mar legacy” – Jan. 3, 2002) noted that, Michael Sheehan, who had coordinated the administration’s counter-terrorism efforts at the State Department, told the New York Times that “the 1993 World Trade Center bombings should have been a wakeup call for the administration.”
Former presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos indicated that said attack didn’t galvanize the administration because it wasn’t a successful bombing.
In 1996, the Times reported political adviser Dick Morris had urged Clinton to launch a higher-profile anti-terrorism effort. Clinton, Morris would later say, was dismissive.
WorldNetDaily.com reported that former FBI agent Jack Cloonan told ABC News, a plan to arrest bin Laden in Afghanistan was killed by then Attorney General Janet Reno.
Even as more accounts of Clinton’s dereliction of responsibility to the voters who elected him – and the oath he had sworn to uphold – surface, he pompously asserts his perceived relevance.
Alexander Hamilton rightfully pointed out that “When [ex-presidents] leave office, they should leave the country as well, or else they will haunt like ghosts the new ones.”
Oh that holy water was sufficient to exorcise the ghost of Jethro.