[playing politics]

Topic: Foreign Affairs
The White House is accusing former antiterrorism expert Richard Clarke of playing politics with his new book, which accuses the Bush Administration with neglecting the threat from Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda both before and after 9/11.

Which leads me to wonder: exactly how is this a politically savvy move for career civil servant who was originally appointed by President Reagan? The assumption is that he has some kind of motive of personal gain, but I think the truth may be simply that he is concerned with American security and has an important story to tell. As Clarke put it, “I’m not doing this because I’m disgruntled, I’m doing this because I think the American people need to know the truth.” Is all disappointment or disagreement with the White House “playing politics”? This White House would have us believe so.

A second line of attack has been to say that Clarke was out of the loop, that major antiterror policies were formulated without his involvement:

Clarke’s successor as the top counter-terrorism official at the White House, Wayne Downing, told NBC’s “Today” show that “there may be some ego issues here because I know the operating style of the White House changed a lot when the Bush administration came in and a lot of Dick’s direct access to the president just didn’t occur any more.”

Which raises the question: why not?

Clarke served as antiterrorism expert for the National Security Council, and his brief was coordinating antiterrorist efforts across all executive-branch departments. If Clarke wasn’t given access to the president, the conclusion I draw is that the president didn’t think antiterror efforts were a priority. But if Bush and his top advisors were formulating antiterror plans, then Clarke’s exclusion suggests a certain degree of disarray within the administration. It’s as if Bush had decided to develop a national healthcare plan without mentioning any of it to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Either that, or it’s just another example of this White House’s lack of interest in any information that doesn’t advance their own story.