THE PLANK OCTOBER 30, 2009
Clinton carefully scaled back her comments from a day earlier suggesting that some Pakistani officials knew where al-Qaida's upper echelon has been hiding and have done little to target them.
When the U.S. gathers evidence that al-Qaida fugitives are hiding in Pakistan, Clinton said Friday during a Pakistani media interview, ''We feel like we have to go to the government of Pakistan and say, somewhere these people have to be hidden out.''
''We don't know where, and I have no information that they know where, but this is a big government. You know, it's a government on many levels. Somebody, somewhere in Pakistan must know where these people are. And we'd like to know because we view them as really at the core of the terrorist threat that threatens Pakistan, threatens Afghanistan, threatens us, threatens people all over the world,'' Clinton said.
And during an interview Friday on ABC's ''Good Morning America,'' Clinton demurred when asked if she thought Pakistan was harboring terrorists, saying: ''I don't think they are. ... But I think it would be a missed opportunity and a lack of recognition of the full extent of the threat, if they did not realize that any safe haven anywhere for terrorists threatens them, threatens us, and has to be addressed.''
A day earlier she was more explicit in her skepticism, telling a Pakistani journalist in Lahore: ''I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to. Maybe that's the case. Maybe they're not gettable. I don't know.'
Hillary is beginning to compile a non-trivial list of off-message comments that cause trouble. On a trip to China she dismissed human rights as a factor in US-China relations--apparently not a scripted statement. She got ahead of the Obama White House on talk of a complete Israeli settlement freeze. And this summer she compared the North Koreans to "unruly teenagers" at a time when the administration was arranging a visit to Pyongyang by her husband to free American journalists held there. For a woman so famous for her message discipline, it's more than a little surprising.
I guess the question here is whether she got carried away in the moment yesterday, or whether a calculated effort to be firm played worse than expected and had to be dialed back.
Update: I now see that, while wrapping up a cover story yesterday, I missed that Jason made some pretty similar points well before I did. (Zengerle! He's always one step ahead....)