Clinton TV Interview Energizes Partisans

The Associated Press
Tuesday, September 26, 2006; 10:19 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Former President Clinton's angry response to questions about Osama bin Laden has partisans of every persuasion certain it will energize voters in the elections and affect a possible presidential bid by his wife.

Conservatives immediately labeled the interview a prime example of the soap opera that would run daily should another Democrat _ say, for example, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton _ win the White House.

Not so, countered Democrats. They argued the former president's feisty dressing-down of Fox News' Chris Wallace is just the wake-up call the party's liberal base needed six weeks before the election, a pointed criticism of the Bush administration's bungled search for bin Laden.

Either way, don't expect the furor to subside any time soon.

"We should replay that interview as often as possible," chortled Republican strategist Nelson Warfield on Tuesday.

"In this election there's been a lot of worry among Republicans about whether our base is motivated and is going to turn out to vote," Warfield said. "Nothing motivates the Republican base more than some puffy pontification from Bill Clinton. When he has a little fit on TV, it reminds us of the future that awaits if the Democrats should ever win another national election."

In the exchange with Wallace, the former president contended that, unlike him, the newly installed Bush administration ignored bin Laden until the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try," Clinton said in the interview broadcast Sunday. Clinton also attacked Wallace for a "conservative hit job" by asking about his administration's failure to get bin Laden.

In the wake of the interview, the Clinton camp denied he had lost his cool.

"That wasn't a question, it was an accusation," said Clinton spokesman Jay Carson. "He knew exactly what he was doing and we knew exactly what we were going to do if he did that, as we suspected he would. But it's not what we wanted."

President Bush did not respond directly to Clinton's charges at a news conference Tuesday, saying, "I've watched all this, you know, fingerpointing and, you know, namings of names and all that stuff. Our objective is to secure the country."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice challenged Clinton's claim that he did more than many of his conservative critics to pursue bin Laden and accused the former president of leaving no comprehensive plan to fight al-Qaida.

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