Friday, March 26, 2004

The Mouse That Roared

The GOP is set to declassify Clarke's 2002 testimony, following Majority Leader Frist's attack on Clarke's integrity. Claiming that Clarke gave two different accounts of the White House's counter-terrorism efforts under oath before the Congressional investigatory panel and the 9/11 commission, both Frist and Hastert suggested they are prepared to have the testimony de-classified.

First, this is an extra-ordinary measure for a secrecy obsessed government to declassify material that they would not even turn over to the 9/11 commission for 6 months because of security concerns. It certainly highlights how seriously they take Clarke's challenge to the credibility. And how far they are willing to go to discredit him. My prediction is that they will release it, and then ask the FBI to investigate possible charges against Clarke for lying to Congress.

There are a great number of ways in which this is laden with hypocrisy and irony. Given the great number of times that the Administration has directly lied to Congress, or pressured people to lie, it is ironic that the Administration is going after Clarke for having taken his marching orders like a man. They may accidentally open a rich field of inquiry into lying to Congress which cannot be easily closed. Nor does this development bode well for the White House, strategically. Obviously there are two interpretations of any inconsistencies in Clarke's testimony - he's lying now, or was lying on the Administration's behalf then. By pressing the issue, the White House is simply forcing people to choose which they think it is.

They stand in very little danger of convincing anyone who already doubts the integrity of the Administration that Clarke is lying now (only 5% of Democrats do not find Clarke credible, while over 26% of Republicans find him to be at least somewhat credible). What they are going to accomplish is to keep the issue front and center of public attention, and pit their integrity against that of Clarke. This is clearly a foolish move; Clarke exudes integrity, and has proven himself anything but a pushover.

I am actually rather embarrassed for the GOP. Their obvious fear of Clarke is painful to watch (though not without lashings of schadenfreude...). From the agit-prop media to the floor of the legislature and the halls of the West Wing, every GOP attack dog has been loosed on Clark. Other than Colin Powell, who demonstrated a tiny bit of laudible independence by refusing to attack Clarke's integrity, the GOP is investing their political capital heavily in bringing Clarke down. If Clarke is able to withstand the assault of the entire GOP, it will demonstrate clearly that the mouse is roaring.

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