Clarke Welcomed Back to Class
Former presidential counterrorism advisor returns to KSG class
Sporting a purple sweater—his sleeves rolled up—and an understated grin, Richard A. Clarke appeared to have weathered the weeks of intense scrutiny which accompanied his testimony and the release of his book, Against All Enemies, which alleges the war in Iraq has been a distraction from the war on terrorism.
Many of his students arrived in class yesterday with their professor’s book in hand, and Clarke signed a few copies after the two-hour lesson.
The class, “Post-Cold War Security: Terrorism, Security, and Failed States,” is co-taught by Clarke, who has filled high posts for four presidents, and Rand Beers, who most recently served as the National Security Council’s senior director for combating terrorism and is now chief foreign policy advisor to Sen. John F. Kerry, Mass., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Clarke’s connection to Beers became a sticking point last month for his conservative critics, who have sought to discredit Clarke as a partisan.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan noted the relationship, calling Beers a “best buddy” of Clarke, and Lee H. Hamilton, vice chair of the Sept. 11 commission, suggested the connection tainted Clarke’s testimony.
Clarke responded sternly to the charges in front of the commission.
“Just because he is now working for Sen. Kerry, I am not going to disassociate myself from one of my best friends and someone who I greatly respect and worked with for 25 years,” Clarke said.
Yet despite the attacks he sustained in advance of and following his testimony, Clarke appeared relaxed yesterday as he moderated a panel of experts on the future of U.S. efforts against al Qaeda.
A Crimson reporter attended the class, but remarks made in the lecture hall were, by request, off-the-record.
Clarke kept quiet for much of the class, but he often displayed his approval for certain statements with knowing chuckles and muted smiles, which have become his public signature in television interviews over the past several weeks.
At the conclusion of yesterday’s class, a group of Clarke’s students presented him with a copy of Profiles in Courage, suggesting Clarke’s story belonged among the other tales chronicled in the Pullitzer Prize-winning book by John F. Kennedy ’40.
Roughly 100 people filled the Starr Auditorium yesterday, including at least two dozen auditors. Students enrolled in the class engaged in a lively question-and-answer session with the panelists, and several stayed afterwards to continue the discussion.
“Clarke and Beers’ class is probably the most cutting-edge subject being taught in the K-School today,” said Aaron O. Patrick, a student in the class.
Yesterday’s lesson came on the heels of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s testimony to the Sept. 11 commission, which was slated for this morning. Rice has vigorously disputed many of Clarke’s claims but had previously refused to appear publicly before the commission.
But as Rice assumes the hot seat today, Clarke appears to have returned, at least in part, to his purely professorial role. And as an educator, Clark reportedly holds the bar high for his students.
“He is a very tough grader,” Patrick said.
—Staff writer Zachary M. Seward can be reached at email@example.com.