. . . Tuesday March 30, 2004

Talk Therapy

There is a subtle (often, not that subtle) notion being written about, hinted at and alluded to that goes something like this: Staff members should put loyalty above “tell-alls” and save their book writing for time when the words wouldn’t be so darn damaging (like, after the issues discussed in the books are long gone).

It’s easy to fall into this speech impediment trap when we’re talking about a book that merely attacks one’s personality (example: we always knew when it was burritos for lunch day in the Oval Office) or off topic (the campaign chairman was removed after it was discovered that he wipes standing up). But even in such cases, speech wins out over other concerns.

In cases such as the Clarke book or the Suskind/O’Neill book, there is no doubt that more information is in the best interest of the country. Hiding facts is what gets us into trouble. Not voicing opinions.

I’ll go one step further. The Bush administration has hypocritically suggested that there is a difference between Richard Clarke’s opinions as expressed in his book and as expressed in a background press conference a couple of years ago. Clarke (and anyone else with even a loose familiarity with politics and the White House) was able to easily explain that when he gave the backgrounder, he was working for the President and was putting the best spin on the administration’s performance (a constraint he was not under as a private citizen).

So why didn’t Clarke resign earlier, thus freeing himself to out an administration with which he was so frustrated? On Meet the Press, Clarke explained: “Why didn’t I resign? Because I believed it was very, very important for the United States to develop a plan to secure its cyberspace from terrorism? And the president had asked me to do that? I did it? I didn’t get it done until February of 2003.”

I am all for a secure cyberspace. But the matters Clarke has written about in his book are of the most urgent nature. Shouldn’t he have stepped down and given the public access to his takes before we actually went into Iraq?

Too early for a book? An act of disloyalty?

If anything, this book is too late.

Concentration is important!