The Today show brought Bill Clinton in this morning to provide color commentary on President Bush's speech of last night. Bill wouldn't bite on the worst of Matt Lauer's attempts to have the ex-President condemn his successor.Right out of the box, Lauer tried to lure Clinton into criticizing the nation's lack of preparedness.
Lauer: "Were you surprised . . . that four years after 9/11 with so much time, energy and money spent on preparedness in this country that we seemed so ill-prepared to handle a catastrophe in a major American city?"
Clinton didn't swing at the softball, observing that "handling the aftermath of a natural disaster is different from preventing a terrorist attack." He observed that the federal government has been "quite good at [preventing terrorist attacks]" then curiously added "in spite of the breakdowns that led up to 9/11."
Clinton didn't specify just which breakdowns he had in mind. Could he possibly have been referencing the utter nonchalance with which he responded to the first Al-Qaida attack on the World Trade Center, in the very first year of his administration?
Lauer then played the race card:
"There has been a troubling question raised in the last three weeks. With so many of the people so dramatically impacted by Hurricane Katrina being poor and black, there are questions as to whether that influenced the federal response to this disaster. Some say if they had been white middle-class people it would have been more efficient and quicker."
To his credit, Clinton flatly stated: "I think there was no conscious racism and no conscious discrimination against the poor."
But then Clinton couldn't help himself. He added this zinger:
"If you're not attuned to what life is really like for people of color and for poor people generally, it was fine to tell everyone to evacuate, but there were many people who had no place to go and no way to get there."
Translation: "I was the first black president, and a good ole boy. I get it. Bush probably thought that by telling people to evacuate, they would fly off to their summer homes in Kennebunkport."
Clinton reserved his biggest guns for the Bush tax cuts. Queried by Lauer as to what sacrifices he would ask American people to make, Clinton replied:.
"I would repeal the tax cuts for upper-income people. I myself have gotten four tax cuts while young Americans have gone off to risk their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are borrowing the money [from a variety of foreign countries] to pay for the suffering of our people in the gulf area and to pay for the Iraq war pay and to cover my tax cut."
He continued: "we've made a decision to lower the living standards of our children and grandchildren and to soak other people around the world who don't have the money by and large to cover ourselves in indulgence, and I think it's crazy."
First note how Clinton twice adopted the liberal poltician's ploy of decrying tax cuts that he himself had received. This would seem to serve the dual purpose of inoculating himself from charges of class envy while offering a not-so-subtle opportunity to brag about his post-White House wealth.
Lauer never challenged Clinton on the logic that says that America is "soaking" countries like Saudi Arabia by letting them purchase our Treasury bonds in the free market. Nor did Matt find any flaw in Clinton's notion that making tax cuts permanent for subsequent generations somehow amounted to lowering their living standards.
Seems Matt agrees that our kids will be better off if big government gets to keep our money and call our shots.
Finkelstein has degrees from Cornell University and Harvard Law
School.He lives in Ithaca, NY where he hosts "Right Angle," a local
political talk show. Finkelstein specializes in exposing liberal bias
at NBC's Today Show.