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Defining partisanship

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Mike Marchand’s March 29 column falls short of condemning partisan attacks, well short. Despite the obvious puns on Dick Clark(e), the essay demonstrates his own plight into partisanship.

How do I define partisans? Those that utilize or accept rhetoric and spin in lieu of mindful analysis. From such partisans engaging in the “taxpayer-paid character assassination campaign,” to quote Clarke – that apparently extends even to our very own Observer – the slinging has carefully misrepresented his testimony and writings to create an untrue portrayal.

After hearing all 2 hours and 40 minutes of Clarke’s testimony before the 9/11 commission, numerous interviews including “60 Minutes” and “Meet the Press” and reading the transcripts of the White House assault this past week, I believe Clarke successfully refutes the partisan attacks with convincing arguments and facts.

I challenge those that are unable to separate their political associations from rational judgments to watch his testimony before the commission. With a surreal patience and poise, Clarke built the case for his conclusions as to the failures resulting in the 9/11 attacks. His narrative of America’s modern counter-terrorism campaign provided a rarely heard story of the policy process and a look into the mechanisms within White House.

Clarke’s most important testimony was not a critique of the War on Terror, it was a description of the challenges in the bureaucratic policy making process to urgent action. While not suitable for news media sound bites, his testimony best explained how from the perspective of a person who knew the threat of terrorism before the rest of us our government failed – himself included.

As the head of Counter-Terrorism, Clarke served our country in ways few have the security clearance to know of. He fought terrorism on a daily basis for the last four Presidents, and long before 9/11 drafted a strategy in January of 2001 proposing a series of continuous, rolling strikes against the terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Documentation supports Clarke’s assertions on this point and identifies him as one of the sad few that recognized the homeland threat posed by transnational terrorism.

The 9/11 commission has been charged with identifying the series of complex errors and misjudgments committed prior to the attacks. Clarke and others who identified the threat, for one reason or another – for one President or another – could not break through to the policy makers the urgency of the threat. The unanimous consensus of those that have access to the congressional reports and testimony of Clarke publicly deny the substance of his critics, former Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, for example.

Truly the most detestable element of the last week was the blind personal assaults on Clarke based upon half-truths and rumors. Sen. Bill Frist’s accusation of perjury and questioning of Clarke’s patriotism was a deplorable act from a respectable man. How can anyone label a 30-year government bureaucrat an opportunistic pariah? It’s been said that when you have something important to say, write a book. Clarke had something to say and we should listen – his position and experience warrant at least that.

John T. Long



March 31