“I worked hard to try and kill him,” former president Bill Clinton told Fox News Sunday. “I tried. I tried and failed.”
”Him” is Osama bin Laden. And in his interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, the former president based nearly his entire defense on one source: Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, the book by former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke. “All I’m asking is if anybody wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book,” Clinton said at one point in the interview. “All you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive systematic way to try to protect the country against terror,” he said at another. “All you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s findings and you know it’s not true,” he said at yet another point. In all, Clinton mentioned Clarke’s name 11 times during the Fox interview.
But Clarke’s book does not, in fact, support Clinton’s claim. Judging by Clarke’s sympathetic account — as well as by the sympathetic accounts of other former Clinton aides like Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon — it’s not quite accurate to say that Clinton tried to kill bin Laden. Rather, he tried to convince — as opposed to, say, order — U.S. military and intelligence agencies to kill bin Laden. And when, on a number of occasions, those agencies refused to act, Clinton, the commander-in-chief, gave up.