Wallace, Bin Laden, Republicans and Clinton
Wallace maintained that he also asked tough questions about failure to tackle Bin Laden of Republican politicians.
Here is Wallace interviewing Republican Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney on Bin Laden in February, 2005. Compare these softballs to the hatchet job he did on Clinton:
‘ WALLACE: President Bush did not mention Osama bin Laden in his State of the Union address.
Do you have any idea where he is, even what country he’s in?
CHENEY: That would be just speculation. And if I did know, I obviously couldn’t talk about it.
WALLACE: I mean, the current speculation is that he’s somewhere in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
CHENEY: I don’t want to elaborate on where he might or might not be.
WALLACE: How much operational control do you believe he still has over al Qaeda? And 3 1/2 years after 9/11, why haven’t we still caught him?
CHENEY: Well, we have done enormous damage to al Qaeda. The attacks that we’ve been able to mount, the work we’ve done with other nations, the Pakistanis, the Saudis and others, we’ve had an enormous and, I think, devastating impact on the organization — captured or killed literally thousands of them around the world.
The organization, at this point, is, I think, very diffused. I don’t think there’s a hierarchical chain of command there; there never was much of one.
But I think nonetheless the threat’s still out there. You see the kind of attacks that we had in Madrid, in Casablanca and elsewhere, Istanbul.
These oftentimes are attacks that are launched by what you might call affiliated, al Qaeda-affiliated groups, but they work on their own timetable, plan their own attacks. Some of them have been trained in Afghanistan and then go back, as is true of the group in Indonesia, Jemaah Islamiyah. Then they go out, and sometimes with financial resources, but launch their own attacks.
In other words, attacks can occur without Osama bin Laden giving the order that an attack occur.
I think he is in hiding. I think he finds it very difficult to communicate with his organization.
WALLACE: Why can’t we catch him?
CHENEY: Well, we’re doing our level best, and I think eventually we will. But he’s very good on his operational security, obviously. He’s found good places to hide. And so far it’s been a difficult task. But I think eventually we will get him.
WALLACE: Let me switch to another troubled part of that world.
Do you believe that the government of Iran has stopped its nuclear uranium-enrichment program, as it says it has?
CHENEY: I don’t know ‘
Wallace let Cheney get away with murder in this interview. He let him walk all over him and then asked him to do it again wearing spike heels.
In Lexis Nexis, I could only find one place where Wallace’s name even came up in connection with Bush’s own failure to capture Bin Laden, at Tora Bora in December of 2001. And that was where he gave Brit Hume an opportunity to dismiss the importance of that lapse:
FOX NEWS SUNDAY 9:00 AM EST
September 10, 2006 Sunday . . .
‘ HUME: There’s a very interesting new book out called, “The Looming Tower”…
WALLACE: I’m reading that right now.
HUME: … by Lawrence Wright, who makes, I think persuasively, the argument that after the initial conflict in Afghanistan, and after Tora Bora indeed, even though Osama and key lieutenants escaped, that Al Qaida was essentially dead, finished, washed up as a major force in the world terror movement.
And he goes on to argue that the war in Iraq has given what he would call the progeny of Al Qaida new life, but that Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaida has essentially been weakened to the point of not being very important anymore.
And I think that’s probably true. I think what we learn as we go here is that this is more a terror movement than it is a network, and that where you can defeat or destroy one terror operation — to wit, bin Laden’s Al Qaida in and around Afghanistan — that others will form and emerge to take its place.
I’m struck to hear Juan and others say, as they do, that we need to be focusing all our energies on Al Qaida. Well, who’s been the big troublemaker more recently? Well, you look in the Middle East; it’s Hezbollah who’s been tremendously important. Hezbollah is the sworn enemy of the United States, funded by Iran.
Do we then chase around the mountains of Afghanistan in an effort to catch one or two or three Al Qaida leaders now weakened, or do we go after Hezbollah?
Now, those are the kinds of questions, it seems to me, you need to ask. And simply talking endlessly about Osama bin Laden being on the loose or, as I think it’s more likely, on the lam, it seems to me, goes nowhere. ‘
So on Wallace’s discussion show, Bin Laden is not important. But when he confronts Bill Clinton, suddenly Bin Laden is the end-all and be-all.
The one place I found where Wallace did press an Administration official a little about the Bush cabinet’s complete inaction with regard to al-Qaeda for its first nine months in office was in his interview with Donald Rumsfeld. You decide if this looks anything like what he did to Clinton:
‘ FOX NEWS SUNDAY (09:00)
March 28, 2004 Sunday . . .
‘ WALLACE: I think a lot of people in Washington are trying to figure out, to understand Richard Clarke, to make sense of what he has said and of apparent contradictions in his story — is he telling the truth, or is he pushing an agenda.
What do you make of his basic charge that, pre-9/11, that this government, the Bush administration, largely ignored the threat from al Qaeda?
RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know the man. I’ve probably met him, been in meetings with him two or three times. But it seems to me that apparently he was there for 10 years.
And the reality is that terrorists can attack any time at any minute, 24 hours a day, using a variety of techniques, in any place at all.
And it’s not possible to defend in every place, against every technique, against every conceivable approach.
Now, what does that mean? It means that you can’t stop every terrorist attack. We know that throughout history. Innocent men, women and children are going to be killed if terrorists are determined to do it.
What you must do, then, is to go after the terrorists where they are and get them before they have that opportunity to have the advantage of an attack.
WALLACE: But let be follow up on that, if I can, sir, because you talked to the 9/11 Commission in private before you talked to them in public, in your public testimony this week. And according to the commission, the staff, this is what you told them in private.
Let’s put it up here if we can: “He,” Rumsfeld, “did not recall any particular counterterrorism issue that engaged his attention before 9/11, other than the development of the Predator unmanned aircraft system for possible use against bin Laden.” He said that, “DOD, the Department of Defense, before 9/11, was not organized or trained adequately to deal with asymmetric threats.”
Mr. Secretary, it sure sounds like fighting terrorism was not a top priority.
RUMSFELD: Well, Chris, if you look at how our government is organized historically, the Department of Justice has the responsibility for law enforcement in the United States. The Department of Defense is, in fact, by law, under the Posse Comitatus law, prohibited from engaging in front- line, law-enforcement, police- type activities.
WALLACE: But the terrorists were based overseas. These are…
RUMSFELD: The terrorists were in the United States. They used a U.S. airplane, and they attacked a U.S. target. And those are things that outside the purview of the Department of Defense.
WALLACE: But what about…
RUMSFELD: Let me just make sure you understand this.
The way the government instructions were laid out, the Department of State had the responsibility for the diplomatic side of it; the Department of Justice has the responsibility for the law enforcement side and for domestic intelligence; Central Intelligence Agency has responsibility for foreign intelligence; and the Department of Defense has responsibility for external threats and force protection.
Now, it was not something that the Department of Defense historically, in our history, was organized, trained and equipped to do. We were organized, trained and equipped to fight armies and navies and air forces, not to do individual manhunts. In fact, there have been occasions in the history of the department, when the department was chastised for investigating things locally, if you’ll recall, during the Army investigations back in the ’60s in the Vietnam War period.
WALLACE: But looking back, sir — and I understand this is 20/20 hindsight — it’s more than an individual manhunt. I mean, what you ended up doing, in the end, was going after al Qaeda where it lived.
RUMSFELD: Which is the only way to do it, in my view. I think you simply have to go after…
WALLACE: And the question is, pre-9/11, should you have been thinking more about that?
RUMSFELD: Well, we were thinking about what to do about al Qaeda. Any suggestion that the administration was not would just be incorrect.
Now, as I think it was Rich Armitage said, were we able to stop that attack? The answer is no. Were we ahead of those particular terrorists and what they were doing? Obviously not.
George Tenet put it well, I thought, when he said, “Look” — they said, “Why’d it happen?” He said, “Because we didn’t have a source inside that particular terrorist cell.” That would have enabled it to have been stopped. ‘
President Clinton refers to Richard Clarke’s book several times. Here is CBS 60 Minutes’ summary and quotation of what Clarke had to say about the first months of the Bush administration and its unconcern with Bin Laden:
‘ Clarke was the president’s chief adviser on terrorism, yet it wasn’t until Sept. 11 that he ever got to brief Mr. Bush on the subject. Clarke says that prior to Sept. 11, the administration didn’t take the threat seriously.
“We had a terrorist organization that was going after us! Al Qaeda. That should have been the first item on the agenda. And it was pushed back and back and back for months.
“There’s a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too. But on January 24th, 2001, I wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice asking for, urgently — underlined urgently — a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack. And that urgent memo– wasn’t acted on.
“I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back. They wanted to work on the same issues right away: Iraq, Star Wars. Not new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years.”
Clarke finally got his meeting about al Qaeda in April, three months after his urgent request. But it wasn’t with the president or cabinet. It was with the second-in-command in each relevant department.
For the Pentagon, it was Paul Wolfowitz.
Clarke relates, “I began saying, ‘We have to deal with bin Laden; we have to deal with al Qaeda.’ Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, said, ‘No, no, no. We don’t have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.’
“And I said, ‘Paul, there hasn’t been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States in eight years!’ And I turned to the deputy director of the CIA and said, ‘Isn’t that right?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, that’s right. There is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States.”
Clarke went on to add, “There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever.”
When Stahl pointed out that some administration officials say it’s still an open issue, Clarke responded, “Well, they’ll say that until hell freezes over.” By June 2001, there still hadn’t been a Cabinet-level meeting on terrorism, even though U.S. intelligence was picking up an unprecedented level of ominous chatter.
The CIA director warned the White House, Clarke points out. “George Tenet was saying to the White House, saying to the president – because he briefed him every morning – a major al Qaeda attack is going to happen against the United States somewhere in the world in the weeks and months ahead. He said that in June, July, August.” ‘
Wolfowitz, who dismissed Clarke’s and Clinton’s obsession with “one little guy,” Bin Laden, was Deputy Secretary of Defense at that time, in spring of 2001. And Wolfowitz’s attitude epitomized that of the Republicans in the Bush administration.
So then of course it is Clinton’s fault.