TODAY’S WINNER….Here’s my award for the most laughable effort (so far!) to discredit Dick Clarke. Romesh Ratnesar, in a piece highlighted on their home page, writes in Time that Clarke’s performance on TV seems rather more dramatic than what he wrote in his book ? a potentially defensible point ? but then dives straight down a spider hole and never returns.

The scene is the White House the day after 9/11 and President Bush is asking repeatedly about possible Iraqi involvement. Here is Ratnesar’s take on things:

….interviewed on PBS’ The NewsHour, Clarke sexed up the story even more. “What happened was the President, with his finger in my face, saying, ‘Iraq, a memo on Iraq and al-Qaeda, a memo on Iraq and the attacks.’ Very vigorous, very intimidating.”

….The Bush in [the book] sounds more ruminative than intimidating: “I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.” When Clarke responds by saying that “al-Qaeda did this,” Bush says, “I know, I know, but see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred…..” Again Clarke protests, after which Bush says “testily,” “Look into Iraq, Saddam.”

Nowhere do we see the President pointing fingers at or even sounding particularly “vigorous” toward Clarke and his deputies. Despite Clarke’s contention that Bush wanted proof of Iraqi involvement at any cost, it’s just as possible that Bush wanted Clark to find disculpatory evidence in order to discredit the idea peddled by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Baghdad had a hand in 9/11.

So: on TV Bush is “vigorous” but in the book he is merely “testy.” Good catch!

But the best part comes next: Bush wasn’t trying to blame 9/11 on Iraq, he was hoping Clarke would come up with evidence that Iraq wasn’t involved! Why? Because he knew that Rummy and Wolfowitz were sure to start peddling that nonsense and he wanted to be ready to bat it down.

Who comes up with this stuff? And why is Time publishing such obvious flimflam?

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