Thursday, December 02, 2004

Bill Frist exposed | Bill Frist exposed

Last March, Frist rose on the Senate floor to demonstrate his fealty to the White House by attacking Richard Clarke in the ugliest and most personal terms. Seeking to discredit the former counter-terrorism chief after his stunning appearance before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Frist essentially accused the former counter-terrorism chief of committing perjury.
"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath," said Frist. "In July 2002, in front of the Congressional Joint Inquiry on the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke testified under oath that the administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al-Qaida during its first seven months in office ... .[It] is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media. But if he lied under oath to the United States Congress it is a far more serious matter. As I mentioned, the intelligence committee is seeking to have Mr. Clarke's previous testimony declassified so as to permit an examination of Mr. Clarke's two different accounts. Loyalty to any administration will be no defense if it is found that he has lied before Congress."

Clarke reacted by urging the immediate declassification of the entire six-hour transcript of his secret testimony, confident that he would be vindicated. Eventually, Frist's own spokesman admitted that his boss hadn't read Clarke's testimony -- and that his only "evidence" was gossip from other unnamed legislators who had called the majority leader to complain that Clarke's "tone" differed from what he had said two years earlier. Some Republicans who had heard Clarke's testimony quietly suggested that Frist didn't know what he was talking about, including Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas.
In fact, Clarke's declassified testimony contains very few references to the Bush administration -- but what he did say wasn't flattering. Neither criticizing nor praising the administration's efforts, Clarke offered a dry factual account of the bureaucratic approach toward terrorism taken by the president's appointees and advisors during the months that preceded 9/11. Clarke allowed the lawmakers to draw their own conclusions -- if they chose to do so -- by contrasting the slow official process with his vivid recollection of CIA warnings during the summer of 2001, when al-Qaida was preparing an "imminent" offensive that might include "multiple, simultaneous attacks, some overseas and some in the U.S." He didn't say one word that was later contradicted by his far more dramatic testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

But why should Frist, any more than his cabal-mates, let the facts get in the way of a good smear?


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