THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK….So how is the right going to respond to Richard Clarke? I figured National Review would be a bellwether, but apparently they were caught off guard over the weekend and failed to get anything up except the official White House response. Their main page just has the usual Kerry bashing and paeans to how well things are going in Iraq.

Off to the Corner then:

  • Kathryn Jean Lopez (from last night): CBS is really hyping 60 Minutes. Apparently they want people to watch it, especially basketball fans.

  • Mark Levin: “Clinton had several clear shots at taking out bin Laden, but refused. He treated the entire matter as one for law enforcement to handle….And I don’t buy the premise that Bush was so occupied with Saddam Hussein that he failed to see al-Qaeda. Where’s the evidence other than some unsubstantiated comments by self-promoting authors who are hardly unencumbered by political taint?”

  • Tim Graham: “My overwhelming first impression is that it’s a little odd to let a guy who sat for many years in the White House while the Clintons did zippy claiming that the Bushies did “nothing” before 9-11. The nets are playing down the fact that he was a Clinton aide….”

  • Jonah Goldberg: “It seems to me that Clarke cannot simply be dismissed as a jerk with an agenda (as I am perfectly comfortable doing with Joe Wilson). That said, that doesn’t mean we have to buy everything Clarke says without skepticism….But it’s sounds like Clarke was an embittered holdover from the Clinton administration who was kept on out of an admirable desire for continuity.”

  • Tim Graham: Lesley Stahl can’t be trusted.

  • Jim Geraghty: It’s a little hard to say what the point of Geraghty’s comment is. Bush is Churchillian and Clarke should be pleased with his actions in Iraq? Or something. Sounds like he thought there was a point there but it never quite jelled before he pushed the Publish button. Hey, I understand, I’ve been there myself….

  • Kathryn Jean Lopez: “Dick Clarke and Kerry adviser Rand Beers are teaching a Harvard class together this semester.”

Bottom line: confusion. The problem is that Clarke has been banging the drum to get terrorism taken more seriously for so long that it’s hard to really impeach his credentials. If anyone’s to blame for not going after al-Qaeda strongly enough, it’s not Clarke.

It looks to me like the primary line of attack so far is to paint Clarke as an embittered partisan: Clinton aide, demoted by Bush, and still friendly with (gasp!) other former Clinton aides.

In other words, it’s still all Clinton’s fault. (Or “the Clintons,” as Tim Graham charmingly puts it.) We’ll see how this develops.

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes managed to bang out a short piece that’s up this morning. Quick summary: Clarke’s no counterterrorism bulldog. In fact, he’s kind of a loon.

OK then.

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