I never liked Bill Clinton -- aside from being a scummy and lousy president, he's also largely responsible for the build-up of terror through the 90s. But, as they say, he's a brilliant politician. More than anything he's concerned about his legacy, and secondarily he wants to get back in the White House; his comments to Larry King last night reflect his mastery of the political field, and should put the seven dwarves vying for the Democrat nomination to shame.
KING: While I have you both here, let me get in just a couple of quick questions about the day's events, starting with President Clinton. What did you make of the killing today of Saddam Hussein's two sons?Emphasis mine. Ok, so what's Clinton up to?
CLINTON: Well, I think it's good news for, you know, trying to get the situation under better control there and I'm really happy. I'm happy that, you know, that the military did their job, as they always did, and, do, and, you know, those guys were pretty foolish not to give up, I think, but that's not the first stupid mistake they've made. And I hope that it will give the Iraqi people some sense of reassurance, and I hope it will reduce the number of attacks on our men and women over there who are still working trying to pacify the situation. I think it's got to be on balance, quite good news for us.
KING: President, maybe I can get an area where you may disagree. Do you join, President Clinton, your fellow Democrats, in complaining about the portion of the State of the Union address that dealt with nuclear weaponry in Africa?
CLINTON: Well, I have a little different take on it, I think, than either side.
First of all, the White House said -- Mr. Fleischer said -- that on balance they probably shouldn't have put that comment in the speech. What happened, often happens. There was a disagreement between British intelligence and American intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence that said it. And then they said, well, maybe they shouldn't have put it in.
Let me tell you what I know. When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. That is, at the end of the first Gulf War, we knew what he had. We knew what was destroyed in all the inspection processes and that was a lot. And then we bombed with the British for four days in 1998. We might have gotten it all; we might have gotten half of it; we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know. So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don't cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions.
I mean, we're all more sensitive to any possible stocks of chemical and biological weapons. So there's a difference between British -- British intelligence still maintains that they think the nuclear story was true. I don't know what was true, what was false. I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying, Well, we probably shouldn't have said that. And I think we ought to focus on where we are and what the right thing to do for Iraq is now. That's what I think.
CLINTON: I think the main thing I want to say to you is, people can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks...
DOLE: That's right.
CLINTON: ... of biological and chemical weapons. We might have destroyed them in '98. We tried to, but we sure as heck didn't know it because we never got to go back in there.
a) He's protecting his legacy. The A-#1 most important thing to Bill Clinton is ensuring that history remembers him as a great president, not a screw-up. Since, as I asserted above, he bears a lot of the responsibility for not knocking out al Qaeda ten years ago, and is also responsible for most of America's dealings with Iraq after the first Gulf War, he doesn't want Bush being called a liar when it comes to WMD. Why? Because Clinton fired lots of cruise missiles into Iraq over the years, and if Bush is lying now then it must mean that Clinton was lying back then.
b) He wants back into the White House; Bill wants Hillary to be the next President of the United States. It's not likely that Hillary is going to run in 2004 (unless Bush really starts to look politlcally vulnerable), and so Bill is working as subtly as he can to undermine the current crop of Democratic wanna-bes. He much prefers a Bush victory to a Democratic victory, because Hillary can't wait till 2012 to run.
c) He's staking out sensible foreign policy ground, just in case. If Bush starts to look weak over the next six months, Hillary will jump into this election and sweep the seven dwarves aside. As popular as Dean is, he can never win the presidency with his crippling pacifistic views (except with regard to Liberia, I suppose), but if Clinton can let the politlcal midgets do the dirty work of tearing Bush down and then have Hillary jump in at the end....
I'd love to know what Terry McAuliffe and the other folks at the DNC are thinking. I don't think they're quite as resigned to losing in 2004, and Clinton keeps sucking the wind from their sails.