On Today, Bennett falsely claimed Clinton "brought ... up" topic of his administration's handling of Al Qaeda and bin Laden

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On NBC's Today, discussing the recent dispute between the Clinton and Bush administrations over which administration has better handled the terrorism threat, Bill Bennett falsely claimed that President Clinton was the one who "brought ... up" the topic of his administration's anti-terror efforts. In fact, the recent dispute between the Clinton and Bush administrations grew out of Clinton's Fox News interview, during which host Chris Wallace first brought up the subject by asking Clinton why he did not "do more to put [Osama] bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business."

During the September 27 edition of NBC's Today, when co-host Matt Lauer asked conservative radio host and former Reagan Education Secretary Bill Bennett about the recent dispute between the Clinton and Bush administrations over which administration has better handled the terrorism threat, Bennett falsely claimed that former President Bill Clinton was the one who "brought ... up" the topic of his administration's anti-terror efforts. In fact, the recent dispute between the Clinton and Bush administrations grew out of an interview of Clinton by Fox News host Chris Wallace, aired on the September 24 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, in which Wallace first brought up the subject of the Clinton administration's efforts to combat Al Qaeda by asking Clinton: "Why didn't you do more to put [Osama] bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business when you were president?"

Discussing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) claim that President Clinton would have taken the infamous August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." "more seriously than the Bush team" -- a statement Sen. Clinton made after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's misleading response to President Clinton's remarks during his interview with Wallace -- Lauer asked Bennett: "Where's this going?" Bennett replied, "Well ... this is politics," adding, "I don't know why [Bill] Clinton wanted to bring up these things. A lot of us didn't really blame Clinton, didn't blame Bush" for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. When Lauer responded that there were "[m]istakes on both parts," Bennett continued, "Well, yeah, but ... he [President Clinton] brought it up, and now that he's brought it up, he's got to expect his record will be examined."

In fact, during the Fox News interview, Wallace was the one who first brought up the subject of the Clinton administration's anti-terror efforts by asking President Clinton why he did not "do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business." Indeed, when Wallace attempted to interject into his answer, Clinton asserted: "No, wait. No, wait. Don't tell me this. You asked me why didn't I do more to bin Laden," adding, "You brought this up, so you get an answer."

From the September 27 edition of NBC's Today:

LAUER: In -- in the time I have left --

BENNETT: Yeah, sure.

LAUER: -- which, by the way, isn't a lot, let me ask you about --

BENNETT: Yeah, yeah.

LAUER: -- for a couple of years, it seemed like we had the Clintons and the Bushes seen at a Woodstock, a little bit of a love fest --

BENNETT: Yeah.

LAUER: -- with 41 and Bill Clinton hanging out together.

BENNETT: Right, right.

LAUER: All of the sudden it's the Hatfields and McCoys.

BENNETT: I know.

LAUER: With Hillary Clinton saying in response to this whole Osama bin Laden 9-11 thing, "I'm certain that if my husband had been shown a classified report entitled, 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the U.S.,' he would have taken it more seriously than the Bush team." Where's this going?

BENNETT: Well -- I don't -- I think it's -- you know, this is -- this is politics, and I have to tell you, these are the kinds of discussions rather than this phony hanging around with each other, making believe people like each other. This is -- this is closer to the real world. I don't know why Clinton wanted to bring up these things. A lot of us didn't really blame Clinton, didn't blame Bush. We -- we -- we look at the CIA and some other parts.

LAUER: Mistakes on both parts.

BENNETT: Well, yeah, but, I mean, he brought it up, and now that he's brought it up, he's got to expect his record will be examined. But I hope, you know, as a Republican, I hope the chasing after Bill Clinton on the world stage, which the Bushes have been doing, I hope that's over.

LAUER: All right, Bill. Bill Bennett in Washington --

BENNETT: OK.

LAUER: -- for us this morning. Bill, thanks so much. Good to see you.

BENNETT: Thank you Matt, as always.

From the September 24 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I gotta say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business when you were president? There's a -- a new book out, you may -- I suspect you've already read, called The Looming Tower, and it talks about the fact that, when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, bin Laden said, "I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of U.S. troops." Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the Cole.

CLINTON: OK, let's just go through it.

WALLACE: Let me -- let me -- may I just finish the question, sir? And after the attack, the book says that bin Laden separated his -- his leaders, spread them around, because he expected an attack, and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is always 20/20 --

CLINTON: No, let's talk about it.

WALLACE: -- but the question is: Why didn't you do more --

CLINTON: No. OK, look.

WALLACE: -- connect the dots and put them out of business?

[...]

CLINTON: OK, now, let's look at all the criticisms: Black Hawk Down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk Down or was paying any attention to it or even knew Al Qaeda was a going concern in October of '93.

WALLACE: I -- I -- I understand, and I -- I --

CLINTON: No, wait. No, wait. No wait. Don't tell me this. You asked me why didn't I do more to bin Laden. There was not a living soul. All the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day. You brought this up, so you get an answer, but you can't --

WALLACE: I'm perfectly happy to take -- get an answer.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Bill Bennett
Show/Publication
Today Show
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Bill Clinton, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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