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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DID HE REALLY JUST SAY THAT? (PART TWO): Did Wes Clark actually accuse Bush of letting 9/11 happen? Or did the NYT imagine it?

Josh Marshall, who heard Clark deliver the speech, didn't mention anything about Clark's accusation. That surprised me, since Josh isn't one to miss a big story.

As such, I decided to figure things out for myself by getting a transcript of Clark's speech, which is available on the Clark04 website.

After reading the speech, I'm even more confused. There are some passages that are very similar to the ones reported in the NYT, but which have a fundamentally different meaning. According to the Times,
Gen. Wesley K. Clark said on Tuesday that the administration could not "walk away from its responsibilities for 9/11."

"You can't blame something like this on lower-level intelligence officers, however badly they communicated in memos with each other," said the retired general, the latest entrant in the Democratic presidential field. "It goes back to what our great president Harry Truman said with the sign on his desk: `The buck stops here.' And it sure is clear to me that when it comes to our nation's national security, the buck rests with the commander in chief, right on George W. Bush's desk."
According to the Clark website, the General said
And then there is 9/11. There is no way this administration can walk away from its responsibilities. This wasn't something that could be blamed on lower level intelligence officers. Our great Democratic President Harry Truman said, the "buck stops here." And when it comes to our nation's foreign policy, the buck sits on George W. Bush's desk. And we must say it again and again until the American people understand it. National security, next to upholding the Constitution, is the most important duty of any President.
Reading the Clark transcript, it's hard to figure out exactly what the General is saying. What is Clark referring to when he says that "This" wasn't something that can be blamed on lower-level intelligence officers? Is he referring to 9/11 or to the absence of WMD in Iraq?

From the NYT version of Clark's speech, however, it is absolutely clear that Clark is talking about 9/11. Well, that's all I have for the moment. I'll let you know what I find.

UPDATE: The AP has quotations almost identical to those in the NYT. TNR also has Clark saying the same thing, although Frank Foer doesn't think Clark meant to say what he said. Which leaves me wondering: Did Clark just completely mangle his prepared text?

UPDATE: There's nothing on Clark's sppech over at the Weekly Standard, but it does have a scathing review of Clark's ever-changing position on the war. The Corner has a link to the NYT article.

UPDATE: I just sent the following e-mail to the contact address given on the Clark '04 website:
Dear Clark '04 Staff,

Good luck with your work -- I know you've probably been putting in a lot of 16 hour days lately.

At the moment, I have a question about Gen. Clark's speech to the "New American Strategies for Security and Peace" conference. According to the New York Times and the Associated Press, Gen. Clark held President Bush personally responsible for the intelligence failures that led to 9/11. However, the quotations to that effect that appear in the NYT and AP stories do not appear in the transcript of General Clark's speech posted on your website. In that transcript, Gen. Clark makes statements superficially similar to the ones reported by the NYT and AP, but which have a fundamentally different meaning. Could you please explain this discrepancy?

Best,
David
UPDATE: I was hoping to settle the issue of what Clark said by watching the webcast of his speech, but I'm having trouble connecting.

UPDATE: Having slept on it, I think it's probably fair to conclude that the media reported Clark's statements accurately. However, the Clark campaign may simply have posted an earlier draft of the speech rather than the final product. Alternately, Clark may have mangled the text. Ultimately, the best indicator of what happened may be whether or not Clark decides to disavow his comments -- but even then it would be hard to know if he were backtracking from an accident or from a major rhetorical blunder.
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