Clinton hits back at Rice over 9/11
Updated: 2006-09-27 09:02

WASHINGTON - New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton hit back at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday as the political fighting escalated over which president - Bill Clinton or George W. Bush missed more opportunities to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.

Clinton, D-N.Y., took aim at President Bush and Rice over their roles in 2001 before the attacks, part of the growing argument touched off after Bill Clinton gave a combative interview on "Fox News Sunday" in which he defended his efforts to kill Osama bin Laden.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks at a Maryland Democratic Party fundraiser at the University of Maryland on Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, at a location in Adelphi, Md. [AP]

"I think my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take these attacks," Hillary Clinton said. "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 Bill 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 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 became furious during the television interview when asked why he did not 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."

The interview has been the focus of much attention, earning the show its best ratings in nearly three years.

Rice questioned the value of the dialogue.

"I think this is not a very fruitful discussion," she said. "We've been through it. The 9/11 commission has turned over every rock, and we know exactly what they said."