Clift: Unlike with Bush, Clinton's 'Manipulations' Didn't 'Cost People's Lives'

On this weekend's McLaughlin Group, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift -- referring the President Bush's September 2003 insistence, in the wake of the Valerie Plame controversy, that “I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information,” a technical accuracy since he had apparently declassified information released in order to counter claims made by Plame's husband, Joe Wilson -- charged: “President Clinton's manipulation of words did not set off a chain of events that took us into an unnecessary war and cost people's lives. It was a personal indiscretion of so much lesser magnitude than what we're dealing here.” Assessing Bush's credibility, she saw him as less credible than Wilson and accused Bush of having “lied” with the “consequence” of thousands being killed, “Wilson's credibility versus the President's credibility: I'd put my money on Wilson. This is a crystalizing piece of information that people can understand the storyline. The President lied, they see the video clips and they know the consequences of a war with over two thousand people dead.” (Partial transcripts follow.)

Clift's theme matched what she expounded upon Friday in her weekly "Capitol Letter" column for Newsweek's Web pages buried on MSNBC.com, “Farewell, Fig Leaf: Bush called for a criminal investigation to ‘get to the bottom' of the CIA leak scandal. It turns out he may be the bottom.” The first sentence of her April 7 offering: “President Bush promised to restore honor and dignity to the White House. It was a not-so-veiled reference to the indiscretions of his predecessor.”

In a Saturday NewsBusters posting, Noel Sheppard highlighted this quite partisan recommendation Clift made a few paragraphs later: “The only way the American people can stop Bush's imperial expansion of power short is to turn out in massive numbers to take back one or the other body of Congress from Republican control.”

Three of Clift's rants from this weekend's McLaughlin Group which airs on Friday, Saturday or Sunday on various stations -- NBC-owned ones and mostly PBS affiliates elsewhere -- around the country (I caught it Saturday at 7:30pm on Washington, DC's NBC-owned WRC-TV, where it is taped on Friday afternoon):
-- “Well, first of all, President Clinton's manipulation of words did not set off a chain of events that took us into an unnecessary war and cost people's lives. It was a personal indiscretion of so much lesser magnitude than what we're dealing here. A President may not be legally culpable for leaking classified information for political gain. But the legality here is irrelevant. It's the political fallout.”

-- “They could have just held a press conference and said we don't think Ambassador Wilson has presented the correct facts and we're going to refute it. Instead they ran a covert political operation out of the White House and the President's authorization to leak this led to a chain of events that revealed the identity of an undercover CIA operative -- which is a serious crime.”

-- “Wilson's credibility versus the President's credibility: I'd put my money on Wilson. This is a crystalizing piece of information that people can understand the storyline. The President lied, they see the video clips and they know the consequences of a war with over two thousand people dead.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center