Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Sunday, March 28, 2004

Speaking of Credibility, Dr. Frist...

In the news reports of Senator Bill Frist’s attacks on Richard Clarke – at least those that I’ve seen so far – one detail seems to be seriously under-reported, and another, overlooked altogether. A little background first, from this article in yesterday’s Washington Post:

The Senate's top Republican called yesterday for declassifying Richard A. Clarke's testimony before a House-Senate intelligence panel two years ago to determine whether he lied, as partisan exchanges intensified over allegations leveled this week by the Bush administration's former counterterrorism chief.

Now here's the accusation, from Frist’s speech on Friday:

Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath. In July 2002, in front of the Congressional Joint Inquiry on the September 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke testified under oath that the Administration actively sought to address the threat posed by Al Qaeda during its first seven months in office.

Mr. President, 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.

Note the emphatic, declarative sentence: “Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath.” Good work, Dr. Frist: Give 'em the soundbite first, short and unequivocal, and then slip in a couple of 'ifs,' later on, to leave room for backpedalling.

Now here’s that under-reported little detail, from the Daily News (tip of the hat to Billmon), from an account of Frist's later remarks to reporters:

He said he personally didn’t know whether there were any discrepancies between Clarke’s two appearances.


So if I understand you correctly, Dr. Frist, you are making accusations on the floor of the Senate, and yet you personally have no idea whether they’re true. But then, silly me, how could you know? I had almost forgotten, because these reports failed to mention, one little fact: you’re not even on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

(note: this entry cross-posted to my diary, here, at Daily Kos)


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