New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has struck back at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the escalating political bickering over which president Bill Clinton or George W. Bush missed more opportunities to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.
Hillary Clinton took aim at President George W. Bush and Rice over their roles in 2001 before the attacks, part of a growing argument that ignited after former President Clinton gave a combative interview on "Fox News Sunday" in which he defended his efforts to kill Osama bin Laden.
"I think my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take these attacks," Hillary Clinton said Tuesday. "I'm certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled 'Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States' he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team."
The senator was referring to a classified brief given to Bush in August 2001, one that Democrats say showed the Bush administration did not do enough to combat the growing threat from al-Qaida.
When the brief was delivered, Rice was Bush's national security adviser, and Clinton's response was clearly designed to implicate her in the same criticisms that have been made of Bush.
Clinton's response came a day after Rice denied President Clinton's claim in the television interview that the Bush administration had not aggressively pursued al-Qaida before the attacks of 2001.
"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," Rice said during a meeting with editors and reporters at the New York Post. "The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false, and I think the 9/11 commission understood that."
Rice also took exception to President Clinton's statement that he "left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy" for incoming officials when he left office.
"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaida," she told the newspaper, which is owned by News Corp., the company that owns Fox News Channel.
The former president was angered during the television interview when asked why he didn't do more to fight al-Qaida.
"That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now," Clinton said in the interview. "They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try."
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