woody_zimmerman_118_2007In August 1998, when President Bill Clinton was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he suddenly found it essential to order a bombing attack on targets in Afghanistan and the Sudan. President Clinton described the bombings as an act of “self-defense” against imminent terrorist plots, and of retribution for the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa two weeks earlier.

Let our actions today send this message loud and clear,” said Mr. Clinton, in an address from the Oval Office. “There are no expendable American targets. There will be no sanctuary for terrorists.” The president and his national security team linked both targeted sites to Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire (as he was then known) who had been tied by U.S. intelligence to the twin bombings on August 7, 1998, in Kenya and Tanzania.

Mr. Clinton said he and military leaders had planned the operation secretly for more than a week – even as he and his lawyers worked on defending his presidency against accusations stemming from Miss Lewinsky’s revelations of their sexual affair. Political opponents called the timing of the bombings “suspicious” and “self-serving,” although Republican congressional leaders generally supported the action. The resulting political uproar overshadowed the Lewinsky affair, as reporters and pundits scrambled to stay current with military and diplomatic developments.

Years later – after the attacks of 9/11/2001 – it was revealed that Mr. Clinton had twice declined the capture of Osama bin Laden, when he was offered by the Sudanese government. Clinton apologists have branded the story “a myth,” but credible testimony insists that the account is true. CIA insiders also claim that Mr. Clinton refused to have the Taliban leader killed on “8 to 10” occasions, when assassination opportunities arose. In the minds of some analysts (including this one), the Clinton bombings of August 1998 have a direct linkage to the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Mr. Clinton’s declaration of war on Osama bin Laden eventually elicited a violent response-in-kind from that same enemy. Actions do have consequences.

As for the Lewinsky Scandal, from which media attention was partially diverted by the Sudan bombings – Mr. Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in December of the same year. The Senate failed to convict him of any charges, however, thus sparing him the ignominy of removal from office. After Mr. Clinton completed his term, he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, by agreeing to pay her $850,000 without an admission of guilt or culpability. Soon after, an Arkansas court fined Mr. Clinton $25,000 and stripped him of his license to practice law for five years, as penalty for giving misleading testimony in the Paula Jones case. Mr. Clinton regained his law-license in 2006.

I cite these events not to argue that Mr. Clinton’s administration “caused” the 9-11 attacks, but to draw a parallel to the Ground Zero Mosque dispute now being hyped through the Mainstream and Cable Media. Both the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and President Barack Obama have waded into the dispute over whether Muslim interests have the “right” to build a mosque at the NYC center of the terrorist attacks (they do), and whether such a construction is “appropriate” or “wise” (probably not).

Mr. Bloomberg says Muslims have every right to build there, and supports the project. He calls opponents “un-American.” Mr. Obama seemed supportive, at first, but he later revised his comments, as a storm of protest arose from all parts of the political spectrum, including members of his own party. Mr. Obama “clarified” his position – actually, he did no such thing – saying he would not comment on the “wisdom” of building a Muslim “community center” in the Ground Zero vicinity. As is common in such debates, each new statement has only served as new fuel for the fire, which shows no sign of abating.

While various public figures wax eloquently sanctimonious or outraged, in turn, over the mosque-project, media and public attention has been significantly drawn away from trivial items like, oh, the economy, disappearing jobs, the sagging stock market, declining home-construction, looming tax-increases, and burgeoning foreclosures. Who could blame the Obama administration for being happy to have attention diverted away from these political downers?

Indeed, the coincidence of the mosque-issue arising at this exact time is so remarkable as to make its convenient timing very suspicious – especially in the view of jaded observers like Yours Truly. Haven’t other sensational news events in the recent past occurred at just the right time to divert media-attention away from controversial political events going on concurrently?

Remember the Salahis, who “crashed” a White House dinner in December 2009? The media sensation lasted two weeks, totally eclipsing congressional debate over the Obamacare legislation then occurring. White House Social Director Desiree Rogers declined to testify to Congress about the incident, citing Executive Privilege. (Are you kidding me?) In an earlier column [1] I suggested that the entire episode might have been created by the Obama White House to get media attention off Obamacare in Congress. To my knowledge, no definitive explanation of the Salahi events has been brought forward.

I see the same White House fingerprints on the public dispute over the Ground Zero Mosque project. Did White House operatives actually approach Muslim interests, assuring them that Mr. Obama would support building a mosque there, if they should propose it? Maybe, but it’s doubtful. The more likely scenario is that sharp-eyed Obama insiders jumped on the mosque-proposal, when it arose, seeing it as an opportunity to divert attention away from the (very) bad news on the economy.

Is the Ground Zero mosque a good idea? Not to my mind. Consider – would the American people have countenanced a Shinto Shrine built by Japanese interests at Pearl Harbor around 1950? Never! The idea would have been absurd, and the Japanese would have been smart enough to see that.

Yet the mosque proposal has been brought forward – an idea so stupid, so witless, that it simply cannot be the brainchild of people as smart as Middle-east Muslims. I simply don’t believe it. These people might be ruthless, cruel and even evil – by our lights – but I have never thought they were stupid. An idea evincing such tone-deafness to the sensibilities of the American people can only have been deliberately contrived to roil the waters and divert attention away from more substantive issues. Muslims care nothing about our jobs, economy, etc. This leaves only the Obamanistas, who care very much about the political ramifications of these.

Managing the news – possibly even creating the news – has become an exercise in political legerdemain. As with card-tricks and other sleight-of-hand feats, not all is as it seems. The Obama White House is either very good at this, or very lucky to have had just the right events arise at just the right time. If it’s the latter, the string of coincidences has been truly amazing. Trouble is – I don’t believe in coincidence when it serves such a convenient political purpose.

We live in amazing times. Watch for the biggest October Surprise in history – coming your way just before the election. Whatever it is, reporters will talk about nothing else for months – far beyond the November elections. I wonder who will benefit from that.

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[1] See “Bold Gambit” - http://www.ahherald.com/index.php/At-Large/bold-gambit.html