What did the president know and when did he know it?
The famous Nixon-era question is back in play today in the hearings of the commission looking into Sept. 11.
First, the Clinton presidency? Did he know how bad Usama bin Laden (search) was? Evidently, the former administration took seriously the 1998 fatwa (search) of Bin Laden's calling Muslims to kill Americans wherever they could be found.
Did the Clinton presidency have a clear show at Bin Laden? High-level people from his administration say no... there was never a day when someone said, "We've got him in the crosshairs. Give the order to pull the trigger."
Okay... let's say we buy that. We've let that Monica Lewinsky (search) stuff go and we're not accusing Clinton of playing "Wag the Dog" when it came to Bin Laden.
But if we accept that from Clinton, why can't we accept it from George W. Bush?
In the great blame game going on at the 9/11 commission, the Clinton people are getting a pass but the Bush people are getting the Richard Clarke (search) treatment, which goes like this... "We didn't have a chance to get Bin Laden during our eight years in power, but we darn well expected Bush to get him in the first eight months of his presidency."
Which seems more likely to be the right amount of time to get Bin Laden? Eight years or eight months?
I'll tell you what — let's take the both at their word: Both Clinton and Bush took Bin Laden seriously, but never had a clean shot.
There's still one big difference. The Clinton people never viewed Iraq with the same level of suspicion and concern. Quite obviously, the Bush people did.
That's My Word.
What do you think? We'd like to hear from you, so send us your comments at email@example.com. Some of your e-mails will be featured on the air or on our site.
• Looking for previous My Word columns?