Mr. President, last week I spoke about the White House’s reaction to Richard Clarke’s testimony before the 9-11 Commission. I am compelled to rise again today, because the people around the President are systematically abusing the powers and prerogatives of government.
We all need to reflect seriously on what’s going on. Not in anger and not in partisanship, but in keeping with our responsibilities as Senators and with an abiding respect for the fundamental values of our democracy.
Richard Clarke did something extraordinary when he testified before the 9-11 Commission last week. He didn’t try to escape blame, as so many routinely do. Instead, he accepted his share of responsibility and offered his perceptions about what happened in the months and years leading up to September 11.
We can and should debate the facts and interpretations Clarke has offered. But there can be no doubt that he has risked enormous damage to his reputation and professional future to hold both himself and our government accountable.
The retaliation from those around the President has been fierce. Mr. Clarke’s personal motives have been questioned and his honesty challenged. He has even been accused, right here on the Senate floor, of perjury. Not one shred of proof was given, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to have the perjury accusation on television and in the newspapers. The point was to damage Mr. Clarke in any way possible.
This is wrong�and it’s not the first time it’s happened.
If it takes intimidation to keep inconvenient facts from the American people, the people around the President don’t hesitate. Richard Foster, the chief actuary for Medicare, found that out. He was told he’d be fired if he told the truth about the cost of the Administration’s prescription drug plan.
This is no way to run a government.
The White House and its supporters should not be using the power of government to try to conceal facts from the American people or to reshape history in an effort to portray themselves in the best light.
They should not be threatening the reputations and livelihoods of people simply for asking � or answering � questions. They should seek to put all information about past decisions on the table for evaluation so that the best possible decisions can be made for the nation’s future.