Monday, March 29, 2004

Fumbled Reception by Rice on Long Bomb

Why on earth is Condoleeza Rice stonewalling the extremely friendly and pliable 9/11 commission (Experts See No Law Barring Rice Testimony)?

It's not like other presidential advisors haven't testified already, so there's no precedent being set, and if she declines to answer some questions on the grounds that the answer would violate national security concerns, she's free to do so. It's all very strange, and given the kid glove treatment to every witness not named Richard Clarke, the fawning, deferential, softball questioning of the likes of Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Powell, it creates the strange impression Rice has something to hide.

The GOPs have been accusing everybody and their grandmother of politicizing 9/11, but the current charged atmosphere is entirely of the Bush administration's making. They didn't just shut out Democratic Congressmen from the Congressional 9/11 investigation, they withheld information from many stalwart Republicans. They delayed the appointment of the 9/11 commission, tried to curtail its powers, and have refused blanket cooperation. That in turn has lead to the commission still meeting at this late date, and the refusal of a key player like Rice to testify under oath -- when she's willing to go on five (5) talk shows in the space of an hour and a half to sling mud at Clarke -- just has a strange appearance.

This may seem odd coming from these pages, but I believe the Bush administration should help itself both politically and help the nation as a whole by just being more upfront, technical, and forthright with the commission. The Democrats can't possibly make 9/11 a political issue on their own. Only the Bush administration can really do that by, not surprisingly, assuming it's a political issue when it's one of profound national interest.

The potential for extreme long-term damage is profound. It's not just establishing clearly what the facts of the terror plot were, and trying to glean some lessons from a complete re-telling -- you'd think three years would be long enough to do that -- it's that the whole investigation is starting to smell worse than the Warren commission. I'm no JFK conspiracy enthusiast, but it's clear that a vast majority of the country continues to believe there was a conspiracy because in no small part to the bizarre way the official investigations in the years after JFK's assassination were handled. It gave the appearance of a conspiracy to whitewash whether or not one was intended.

I, for one, don't want to spend the next forty years in a painful rehash of 9/11, and that makes it very important for everybody, EVERYBODY, to come forth and be open to the fullest extent national security makes it practicable.

It's time for the Quarterback to step up and tell his employee to be more receptive.

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