Harry Smith Taken Aback as CBS Analyst Blames Clinton for bin Laden Failures

Despite Bill Clinton's angry protestations, the bulk of the blame for America's failure to catch or kill Osama bin Laden lies squarely on the Clinton administration, at least according to terrorism analyst Michael Scheuer.

Scheuer's words, delivered on today's edition of CBS's "Early Show," must have come as a shock for co-host Harry Smith since the liberal media's usual refrain on bin Laden is to blame Bush for the failure to kill him back in the early days of the Afghanistan campaign.

That just isn't the case, Scheuer argued, implicitly criticizing the press.

"The former president seems to be able to deny facts with impugnity. Bin Laden is alive today because Mr. Clinton, Mr. Sandy Berger, and Mr. Richard Clarke refused to kill him," he said.

Video clip (1:34): Real (2.5 MB at 225 kbps) or Windows Media (2.9 MB at 256 kbps), plus MP3 audio (443 KB). Read on for transcript of the segment.

On Monday's "Early Show", co-host Harry Smith talked with Scheuer about the war in Iraq and the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Smith was shocked when Scheuer laid the blame at the feet of the Clinton administration, and attempted to put the focus back on failures of the Bush Administration. Smith highlighted president Clinton's defense of his administration:

"Let's talk about what President Clinton had to say on Fox yesterday. He basically laid blame at the feet of the CIA and the FBI for not being able to certify or verify that Osama bin Laden was responsible for a number of different attacks. Does that ring true to you?"

Scheuer refuted Smith’s portrayal of Clinton:

"No, sir, I don't think so. The president seems to be able, the former president seems to be able to deny facts with impugnity. Bin Laden is alive today because Mr. Clinton, Mr. Sandy Berger, and Mr. Richard Clarke refused to kill him. That's the bottom line. And every time he says what he said to Chris Wallace on Fox, he defames the CIA especially, and the men and women who risk their lives to give his administration repeated chances to kill bin Laden."

Smith couldn’t let these facts tarnish the Clinton legacy, so he attempted to change the subject back to the Bush Administration:

"All right, is the Bush administration any less responsible for not finishing the job in Tora Bora?"

Scheuer acknowledged that there is plenty of blame to go around for not getting bin Laden, but asserted that Clinton bears most of it:

"Oh, I think there's plenty of blame to go around, sir, but the fact of the matter is that the Bush Administration had one chance that they botched, and the Clinton Administration had eight to ten chances that they refused to try..."

Scheuer continued his response and accused President Clinton of lying to the American people:

"...But it's just, it's an incredible kind of situation for the American people over the weekend to hear their former president mislead them."

Scheuer’s points may have hit at Clinton too hard for Smith, as Smith used his final word to assert that President Bush is responsible too:

"And, and, and with this also further revelation that, in fact, the war in Iraq has only exacerbated the terrorist situation."

Scheuer’s facts about the failures of the Clinton administration in catching bin Laden are largely ignored by the media, but keep them in mind the next time a reporter starts hammering the Bush administration because Osama bin Laden is still at large.

Transcript of the relevant portion of the interview follows:

Harry Smith: "Elizabeth Palmer live in Pakistan this morning, thank you. I'm going to go back now to Michael Scheuer once again. Let's talk about what President Clinton had to say on Fox yesterday. He basically laid blame at the feet of the CIA and the FBI for not being able to certify or verify that Osama bin Laden was responsible for a number of different attacks. Does that ring true to you?"

Michael Scheuer: "No, sir, I don't think so. The president seems to be able, the former president seems to be able to deny facts with impugnity. Bin Laden is alive today because Mr. Clinton, Mr. Sandy Berger, and Mr. Richard Clarke refused to kill him. That's the bottom line. And every time he says what he said to Chris Wallace on Fox, he defames the CIA especially, and the men and women who risk their lives to give his administration repeated chances to kill bin Laden."

Harry Smith: "Alright, is the Bush administration any less responsible for not finishing the job in Tora Bora?"

Michael Scheuer: "Oh, I think there's plenty of blame to go around, sir, but the fact of the matter is that the Bush Administration had one chance that they botched, and the Clinton Administration had eight to ten chances that they refused to try. At least at Tora Bora our forces were on the ground. We didn't push the point. But it's just, it's an incredible kind of situation for the American people over the weekend to hear their former president mislead them."

Harry Smith: "And, and, and with this also further revelation that, in fact, the war in Iraq has only exacerbated the terrorist situation. Michael Scheurer, we thank you so much for your time this morning."

War on Terrorism CBS Early Show Video

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