Bush on Clinton: Aw, he’s just pointing his finger at me

President Bush on Tuesday dismissed as "finger-pointing" criticism from his predecessor Bill Clinton of his counter-terrorism efforts in the months leading up to the September 11 attacks.

Clinton, angrily defending his own administration’s attempts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, had accused the Bush administration of doing far less to stop the al Qaeda leader before the 2001 hijack plane attacks.

Bush, who is trying to stave off a Democratic takeover of Congress in November, seemed to bristle when asked about Clinton, only to sidestep his assertions.

"We’ll let history judge all the different finger-pointing and all that business. I don’t have enough time to finger-point," he said at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"I’ve got to do my job," he added, "and that is to protect the American people from further attacks."

Bush spoke two days after "Fox News Sunday" aired a heated interview in which Clinton defended steps he took after al Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole in 2000 and faulted criticism by "right-wingers" of his efforts to capture bin Laden.

"They had eight months to try, they did not try," Clinton said of the Bush administration response. The September 11 attacks occurred almost eight months after Bush succeeded Clinton.

Clinton also said when his term ended he left the new Republican administration "battle plans" for going into Afghanistan, overthrowing the Taliban and launching a full-scale search for bin Laden.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice disputed Clinton’s statement. "We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda," she told the New York Post.

Asked about Clinton’s comments, Bush said, "I’ve watched all the finger-pointing and namings of names and all that stuff. Our objective is to secure the country. We’ve had investigations. We had the 9/11 commission, we’ve had the look-back this, we had the look-back that."

Bush also said it was "preposterous" for opponents of his Iraq war strategy to call for a swift U.S. troop withdrawal.

He has sought to rally public support for the unpopular Iraq war by framing it as an extension of the "war on terrorism" he declared after the September 11 attacks. Many Democrats say Iraq is a distraction from the broader fight.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved


  1. Rice Farmer

    All this arguing over who is more to blame for 9/11 is just a distraction for a gullible public that goes ga-ga over UBL videos and Paris Hilton news.

  2. Lori

    Rice Farmer,
    it would be irrelevant if the Bush administration didn’t tout themselves as the end-all be-all of terror protection. Since they DO, it then becomes VERY relevant.

  3. Steve

    Ms. Rice says there was no comprehensive anti-terror plan. Given that Clinton and most of his staff were serious policy wonks, I suspect there _was_ a plan. The incoming Bush administration, convinced that they are both omniscient and omnipotent, probably shredded it without even reading it.

  4. ITMF

    President Bush stated “I’ve got to do my job, and that is to protect the American people from further attacks.”

    I seem to remember him doing his job on Sept 11, 2001, reading My Pet Goat at a public school rather than being in a position to protect the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and those who perished.

    The President just keeps piling us deeper in crap while the Attorney General and the Senate have the leadership confidence of the lead shooters of a Dick Cheney hunting party.

  5. Neal Goldstien

    The so-called path to 9/11 is littered with the idiocy of Ken Starr and the irresponsible Republican majority who diverted the resources of our country from security to political terrorism — just because they had the votes to do it.

    Who ordered 800 FBI agents, who otherwise might have been able to track terrorists, to Arkansas to check into the president’s sex life?

    Who accused Bill Clinton of “wagging the dog” when he ordered Cruise missiles into al-Quaeda camps in Afghanistan?

    Who stayed at his ranch and played golf after receiving a CIA warning that bin Laden had plans to attack us?

    Who thought first of saving his own ass after the 9/11 attacks — hiding out in some military bunker instead of returning to Washington to do the job that 5 Supreme Court justices appointed him to do?

  6. rbank

    WHy do people even ask the man questions all he will do is tell them another bloody lie. It would be great if instead of asking him questions so that he can lie, they would all set there in stone silence. I wish he would stop flying around telling his lies on my tax dollar.