Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Rice challenges Clinton on terror record

NEW YORK - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice challenged former President Clinton's claim that he did more than many of his conservative critics to pursue Osama bin Laden, and she accused President Bush's predecessor of leaving no comprehensive plan to fight al-Qaida.
"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," Rice said Monday during a meeting with editors and reporters at the New York Post.

The newspaper published her comments Tuesday, after Clinton appeared on "Fox News Sunday" in a combative interview in which he defended his handling of the threat posed by bin Laden and said he "worked hard" to have the al-Qaida leader killed.

"That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now," Clinton said in the interview. "They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try."

Rice disputed his assessment.

"The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false - and I think the 9/11 commission understood that," she said.

Rice took exception to Clinton's statement that he "left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy" for incoming officials when he left office.

"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaida," she told the newspaper, which is owned by News Corp., which also owns Fox News Channel.

In the TV interview, Clinton accused host Chris Wallace of a "conservative hit job" and asked: "I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, 'Why didn't you do anything about the Cole?' I want to know how many people you asked, 'Why did you fire Dick Clarke?'"

He was referring to the USS Cole, attacked by terrorists in Yemen in 2000, and former White House anti-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke.

Rice said Clarke "left when he did not become deputy director of homeland security."
The interview has been the focus of much attention - drawing nearly 1.2 million views on YouTube and earning the show its best ratings in nearly three years.

Rice questioned the value of the dialogue.

"I think this is not a very fruitful discussion," she said. "We've been through it. The 9/11 commission has turned over every rock and we know exactly what they said."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., defended her husband. "I just think that my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take this," she told Newsday on Monday.

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