Saturday, May 24, 2003

Over the last couple months I’ve really started to like C-Span. Not only is everything they do commercial free, they are just about the only place on TV where you can get what I consider unbiased information on the Democratic Party candidates running for President. C-Span2 has been running a series on Saturday afternoon called 'Hear It From the Heartland' which has so far showcased Howard Dean, John Edwards, and John Kerry in a format hosted by Sen. Tom Harkins (D-Iowa) from Davenport.

It’s a very comfortable format for the candidates. They get the stage all to themselves to chat with the audience, who almost always ask solid questions, and there is no obnoxious George Streptococcus to compete with for camera time. Senator Tom keeps it folksy and down-home and if you get the chance to tune in some Saturday afternoon if you’re interested in what the Dems have to say it might change your mind about some things. I know it changed my mind about Howard Dean, who was as dynamic and funny in Iowa as he was dour and angry in South Carolina. It really showed him in a very positive light.

It had been a couple years since I had heard anything more than a sound bite from Bill Clinton, but C-Span has been running a show on Friday nights called “The Clinton Presidency” and it’s also worth a watch. This past Friday it was the former president at the University of Arkansas answering questions from a group of students and it really was fun watching him do what he does best: talk.

Say what you will about Bill Clinton (and most everybody has an opinion about him, either good or bad) but he is absolutely in his element when he is relaxed and leaning against the podium, just letting the stories unfold. He kept those students, and Barb and myself too, totally transfixed on his every word and it showed me once again why I was proud to vote for him twice. His cadence when he really gets going is like listening to a preacher on Sunday and I’d forgotten what it was like to hear a president who could speak without stumbling over every other word.

He had some interesting things to say about his Presidency and the world since he left office. He made some good points about the failure of the Bushies to destroy al Queda and Osama when we had them cornered in the mountains in northeast Afghanistan last year, and he noted that it was probably the lack of US troops in the area at the time and the resulting inability to surround the mountain hideouts that gave bin Laden the chance to slip away to terrorize another day. He also mentioned that, in his opinion, we pulled the troops out of the country way too early in order to buildup for the Iraq invasion when the job was not completed, and now we’ll probably have to go back into Afghanistan and fight our ex-allies, the Northern Alliance, and a reconstituted al Queda.

During the coming election when you hear about how Bush screwed up in the war on terror, this is what they mean. He got sidetracked in his obsession with Saddam and it could be argued that he let Osama get away when he had him in his grasp.

Yet, he supports Dubya’s decision to go into Iraq and he doubt’s whether Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction. Afterall, his intelligence agency had been telling him the same thing for years.

Clinton also talked extensively about his own mistakes that he made while President. He takes the blame for the disaster in Somalia, even if it was a problem he inherited when he took office. He spoke quite candidly about his naiveté about the level of meanness that permeates Washington politics and he was taken by surprise how quickly the Press seemed to turn on him and Hillary. He said his biggest mistake was trying to do too much too fast during the first 100 days, and if he had to do it all over again he’d concentrate on passing welfare reform before he even thought about trying to pass health care reform.

He said his greatest regret was that he wasn’t able to do anything to stop the slaughter in Rwanda (where about 350,000 people were killed in tribal fighting) because by the time the stories about the genocide became known to the world it was too late to ramp-up a troop deployment to do any good. It was already a done thing, and he seemed genuinely sad that he couldn’t stop it.

It was a fascinating two hours of television. Ok so he’s a bit of a goober and a snake. Call him what you want, but you can’t call him a crook. From an interview in Buzzflash with the author of The Clinton Wars, Sidney Blumenthal.

BUZZFLASH: You mention that Starr basically, in our words, had decided with his staff that the President and Mrs. Clinton were guilty. All the Independent Counsel had to do was find a crime. And in the absence of a crime, they were still guilty. What were they guilty of in the mind of Ken Starr?

BLUMENTHAL: In the course of writing this book, I interviewed Sam Dash, who was hired by Ken Starr as his counselor to advise him on his prosecution. Dash was a Democrat. He was the Majority Counsel in the House Judiciary Committee in the impeachment hearings of Richard Nixon, and he was one of the early proponents of the Independent Counsel Act. Dash later quit to protest Starr's advocacy of impeachment before Henry Hyde's House Judiciary Committee because he thought that the Independent Counsel should never act as an advocate, but simply present the facts.

Dash told me that he reviewed every single prosecution memo on Whitewater, on the FBI files case, on the travel office -- on every single thing that they were investigating. And as he told me -- quote -- they had nothing. And he also told me that he told them that. He said: Zero plus zero plus zero equals zero. He urged them to drop it and to wrap up the investigation. That should have been their due diligence as professional prosecutors. They should have concluded the matter. That was their responsibility, their obligation. But they didn't listen to Dash.

Instead, as he explained to me and another prosecutor in Starr's office -- who spoke to me at great length on background -- they believed that the Clintons had to be guilty of something. Why? Because they had to be corrupt. They had to be evil. They had to be morally suspect, both of them -- both Bill and Hillary Clinton -- because of a matter of faith on the part of Ken Starr and his prosecutors that they were. It was the view not of American jurisprudence but of the Spanish Inquisition. In other words, identify the target and find a crime.

BUZZFLASH: But what was it that was motivating them, whether or not it was part of the right-wing conspiracy -- and we certainly would ascribe to that? But let's just look at Ken Starr and his chief assistants, who you say were self-described members of the Likud faction of the prosecution.


BUZZFLASH: What did they think? Given that they didn't have a crime, what did they think the President was guilty of?

BLUMENTHAL: They didn't know. They couldn't quite put their finger on it, but they kept trolling for it. And they were driven by deeply seated, conservative, cultural and partisan views toward the Clintons, which overrode their professional responsibilities to wrap the whole matter up. And that's what happened when the office of the Independent Counsel was captured by Starr, who filled the office with these kinds of hard-charging right-wingers.

Starr had NOTHING on the Clintons. Still doesn't..........