Last week was, by any reasonable measure, a disaster for George W. Bush considering Richard Clarke, the White House's former senior advisor on terrorism, told Congress and the media the president has done a “terrible job” in the war on terrorism. “Frankly,” Clarke said in a recent interview with CBS' 60 minutes, “I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9-11.”
If it takes two credible sources to confirm a story, then Clarke becomes the second source suggesting Bush's dishonesty and incompetence, following similar statements from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. There are other Bush administration insiders telling a story of deception coming from the White House, such as Karen Kwiatkowski at the Pentagon and Richard S. Foster, the government's chief analyst on Medicare costs, as well.
So it seems, when the going gets rough in an election year, you stage a campaign stop for the lap-dog Albuquerque media, spin it as an “official visit” (which is what the Journal called it, even though any damn fool knew it was nothing but a campaign speech for the local media), fill the bleachers with invite-only supporters, hold it at a location isolated from the public like Expo New Mexico, skirt any follow-up interviews, head out of town and wake up the next morning with a big, fat headline on Saturday, March 27, like this one: “Bush Woos N.M Again,” and an even tastier subhead: “Getting Tough: Bush says he won't tolerate terrorists, corporate scandals or a weak economy.”
As usual when it comes to national political reporting in the Journal, there was no analysis of Bush's policies that might give some intellectual depth to the otherwise meaningless rhetoric that jumped off the front page. There was, however, an editorial that same day discrediting Clarke's statements at a congressional hearing earlier in the week, saying it “had all the markings of a stop on a book-signing tour.”
To “Thin Line,” Clarke seems more like a dignified and angry Conservative who will speak his conscience, regardless of the attempts at character-assassination he'll have to endure from Bush loyalists. In that regard, he's a lot like Paul O'Neill.
But if honest men are making your life complicated, and you're Karl Rove, you can always come to our little swing state, where the Albuquerque Journal will have a happy, (J) happy headline waiting for you.