Perhaps the most audacious claim made by former Counter-terrorism staffer, Richard Clarke, is that Bill Clinton made combatting terrorism his top priority.
Reasonable people might wonder, if fighting terrorism was President Clinton's top priority, why from 1993 through 2000, when the United States suffered terrorist attacks at The World Trade Center, at our military barracks in Saudi Arabia, at two African embassies, and against the U.S.S. Cole, did Clinton take no effective action against terrorists? President Clinton did, on the other hand, send United States armed forces to fight in Bosnia and Kosovo, and to deliver humanitarian aid in Haiti.
He also pursued an aggressive, if unambitious, domestic agenda which, after the failure of his 1993 Universal Healthcare legislation to pass a Democrat House and Democrat Senate, consisted of scores of small initiatives to touch up The New Deal and The Great Society. And it's no secret that President Clinton found plenty of time for (ahem) other activities, not to be found in the Presidential job description.
What makes Clarke's assertion interesting is that it may be partially accurate. Bill Clinton may well have announced, "my top priority is fighting terrorism." That's because no President (or non-President, for that matter) has ever had so many "top" priorities as Bill Clinton did. Sometimes during his eight years Clinton would announce two differing "top" priorities within the space of a single week. Clinton's self-proclaimed "top" priorities ranged from Universal Healthcare to Regime Change in Iraq, and from "saving" Social Security to forcing insurance carriers to pay for breast-cancer screening.
How could one President have dozens of "top" priorities? Presumably, that would depend on what the definition of "top" is, or perhaps the definition of "priority." Who knows? Who even cares? The relevant point is that, over the course of eight years in office, Bill Clinton's actions to combat terrorism, when weighed in the balances, have been found wanting. So if Clinton would like to accept Mr. Clarke's compliment, Clinton will have to acknowledge that his presidency failed utterly in its own top priority.