Notes: This past week, Richard A. Clarke's book, "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," cannon balled into the national dialogue. Clarke, who was George W. Bush's counterterrorism coordinator, "...accuses the Bush administration of failing to recognize the al-Qaida threat before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and then manipulating America into war with Iraq with dangerous consequences." (See Associated Press story in the Houston Chronicle on March 20, 2004.) In the same piece, Clarke is quoted as saying, "I'm sure I'll be criticized for lots of things, and I'm sure they'll launch their dogs on me." [Note that the Associated Press spells bin Laden's group al-Qaida while the New York Times and Washington Post spell it Al Qaeda.]

Clarke was right about the attack dogs. The New York Times reported on March 22, 2004, in a story by Elisabeth Bumiller and Judith Miller, "The angry White House response to Mr. Clarke, which was authorized by Mr. Bush, reflects the administration's fears over the book's potential political damage. In a daylong assault on Monday, administration officials portrayed Mr. Clarke, a secretive, combative terrorism expert who spent more than three decades working in the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations, as a bitter former employee who had been denied the No. 2 position in the Department of Homeland Security and who was now trying to help the Kerry campaign."

In sum, Clarke says that Bush pressured him on Sept. 12, 2001, to find a link to Iraq for the 9-11 attack and that the administration had wanted to go after Saddam Hussein since day one. This obsession with Iraq prevented Bush from focusing wholly on going after al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. The attack on Iraq was unnecessary, costly and, in fact, created blow-back against the United States by Muslims around the world angry over the attack on a Muslim country. (I haven't read the book and am summarizing from news accounts.)

There were witnesses to the exchange between Bush and Clarke in the White House Situation Room. One witness, Roger Cressey -- a business associate of Clarke's -- agrees with the thrust of Clarke's account, but says that he didn't feel that Bush was intimidating in his demeanor at the meeting. "Cressy also says that national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, also witnessed the exchange. Administration officials said Ms. Rice had no recollection of it." (See Bumiller and Miller New York Times report referenced above.) Last week, Rice refused to give sworn testimony before the federal commission investigating the 9-11 attack citing executive privilege. Clarke testified before it.

In another New York Times report on March 27, 2004, Carl Huse and Philip Shenon write that Clarke "received support on Friday from an unlikely source -- Secretary of State Colin Powell. In a television interview, Powell said Clarke had 'served his nation very, very well' and was 'an expert in these matters,' referring to counterterrorism." The television program was the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Sen. Bill Frist and other Republican leaders are now calling for Clarke's past congressional testimony to be declassified saying it contradicts his present talk of Bush. However, Democrats in Congress who have reviewed the previous testimony say this isn't so. The White House has previously insisted that portions of the congressional investigation into 9-11 remain secret.

As for the last frame in the above strip, the reference is, of course, to Vice President Dick Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and there infamous duck hunt in the swamps of Louisiana. Though there is a case before the court involving Cheney, Scalia flew to Louisiana with Cheney aboard Air Force 2. Afterwards, the Sierra Club asked Scalia to recuse himself from the Cheney case. In an unusual 21-page opinion, Scalia refused to recuse himself. I'm not certain of the legal propriety of Scalia's decision, but his actions don't pass the smell test. I wonder why he visits them on the Supreme Court when it's not unusual for a justice to recuse himself.

It struck me as funny for the slime guy, who's obviously in a swamp-like pool of slime, to slime the wrong people right there in the swamp. And Cheney and Scalia happened to be right there in the swamp. The sliming policy in politics, by the way, is called slime and defend. 03.28.04