I’m still amazed at the ability of various people to read the exact same document and come to diametrically opposed conclusions. The current case in point is the final national security report from the Clinton Administration. The issue is, how seriously does that document take the terrorist threat? More specifically, how serious was the threat from Osama bin Laden / Al Qaeda. On one side we have Oliver Willis and CalPundit who read it as vindicating the claim that the Clinton Adminstration took the threat seriously. On the other side are people like Orrin Judd and Captain Ed who read it as vindicating the claim that the Clinton Administration viewed terrorism and Al Qaeda in particular as purely law enforcement issues. These aren’t people citing different documents but the exact same report.
As for my view, I have the context that the Clinton Administration was big on rhetoric and weak on action in this regard and I read most of this document as much of the same. I also find that counting references is less important than looking at the context in which those references occur (what ever happened to nuance?). I think the Clinton Administration took the threat seriously but didn’t take responding seriously. It reminded me of people who are scared of their credit card debt but unwilling to make any substantive cuts in their lifestyle. Instead the goal became to get by until it was someone else’s problem. Not exactly the stuff of legend that’s being promoted as the Democratic Party line these days. However, as has been noted, it was symptomatic of the times. This is unsurprising because one of the best skills Clinton had was to tune in to the zeitgeist. But that was a different time and a rehash of that unwillingness to act seriously is not something we can afford now.