And the famous finger-wag is once again all over the news rotation. Former President Bill Clinton gave his first television interview with the FOX News Channel since he stepped out of office nearly six years ago. Clinton embodied the spirit of presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. He brought passion back into politics and came out of the interview leaving a resonating sound in the ears of American viewers. President George W. Bush has yet to captivate his audience in such a manner.
Clinton, who has shifted his focus to philanthropy since leaving office, agreed to the interview with FOX correspondent Chris Wallace in order to discuss the Clinton Global Initiative. The CGI has raised close to $7 billion in aid for developing countries fighting the effects of climate change and various forms of poverty. It is one of the many humanitarian efforts launched by the former president.
‘I think I owe it to my fellow countrymen and people throughout the world to spend time saving lives, solving problems and helping people see the future,’ Clinton said.
Now that is what America needs. Many have raised the question of whether Clinton is doing greater good out of office compared to what he was able to accomplish in office. Wallace entertained this notion in the interview, following the current trend of criticizing what we now see clearly in hindsight.
Consider, though, the idea of simply praising a politician who is actually managing to a have a positive impact on the world. Wallace and fellow conservatives can mock Clinton’s efforts, but they cannot say that Clinton has retired into a life of golf paid for by White House funds. The politicians who have taken that route will remain unnamed in this article.
The part of the interview that conservative news channels have been dubbing ‘Clinton’s Freakout’ is perhaps one of the finest Clinton interviews I have seen. Clinton agreed to the interview under the pretense that he be interviewed for 15 minutes on his Global Initiative, and 15 minutes on anything else neoconservative Wallace decided to ask. Wallace opted to rile up Clinton by spending the first half on the ‘anything else’ part. This left no time for significant discussion of the CGI, and the interview turned into a game of whom to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks.
The question that got Clinton’s finger jittering was Wallace asking the former president why he hadn’t done more to prevent the attacks. Perhaps Clinton did make some inappropriate statements in the near 20 minutes that followed. However, imagine being accused of knowing that the Sept. 11 attacks were an imminent danger and not doing anything about it.
Continually pointing fingers does nothing but agitate. What might actually help the national security effort would be to implement the suggestions the 9/11 Commission printed four years ago, most of which have been ignored by the Bush administration, as Clinton pointed out.
It is the age-old adage of finding a solution on the playground instead of bullying the other person. Sure, Clinton got angry. It is a human quality that arises when feeling passionate about something. He is frustrated by media attacks, by party stalemates and by governmental gridlocks. It might just be safe to say that Clinton is as frustrated with the current national security conflict as most Americans.
Wallace seemed stunned not only at the passion that Clinton had about the national security conflict, but also the number of facts that Clinton was able to articulate without note cards.
Clinton said he did want to station troops after the 1993 attacks in Somalia, but was unable to because of a lack of administrative support. The 1998 attacks on the World Trade Center again left Clinton urging a ‘comprehensive counter terror’ plan to find and kill Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network.
Remember, this was around the time that everyone claimed Clinton was trying to shift attention away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal by claiming a national security threat.
Furthermore, he could not get basing rights in Uzbekistan or get the FBI or CIA to certify that bin Laden was the source of the 1998 attacks. All of these doors conveniently opened for Bush after Sept. 11. This is not to excuse Clinton’s mistakes, but to recognize that he did try.
When asked by Chris Wallace whether he had done enough, Clinton said, ‘No, because I didn’t get him.’ He further noted that he urged the 9/11 Commission to publicize his mistakes so that future administrations could learn from them.
We’re not looking at some off-the-wall freak here. We’re looking at a man who has made mistakes and owned up to them. It is about time that we find strength and direction from the tragedy of Sept. 11 and quit squabbling over who could have done more to prevent it. Everyone could have done more. The question now is, ‘What can we to do make progress?’
Sarah Ghulamhussain is a first-year criminology, law and society and political science double major.