In a combative interview on "Fox News Sunday," former President Clinton defended his handling of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden, saying he tried to have bin Laden killed and was attacked for his efforts by the same people who now criticize him for not doing enough.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton listens to progress reports at the conclusion of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 22, 2006.[Reuters]
"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."
Clinton accused host Chris Wallace of a "conservative hit job" and asked: "I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, 'Why didn't you do anything about theCole?' I want to know how many people you asked, 'Why did you fire Dick Clarke?'"
Wallace said Sunday he was surprised by Clinton's "conspiratorial view" of "a very non-confrontational question, 'Did you do enough to connect the dots and go after Al Qaida?'"
"All I did was ask him a question, and I think it was a legitimate news question. I was surprised that he would conjure up that this was a hit job," Wallace said in a telephone interview.
Clinton said he "worked hard" to try to kill bin Laden.
"We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since," he said.
He told Wallace, "And you got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever, but I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try and I did everything I thought I responsibly could."
The interview was taped Friday during Clinton's three-day Global Initiative conference.