Boy, what a ride.
First, she refused to testify. She refused to address the many contradictions between her recent statements about 9/11 and previous sworn testimony, including that of Richard Clarke. She refused to testify to the Presidentially appointed Commission investigating 9/11; she refused to appear in public and answer critical questions under oath.
Meanwhile, she was seen on every news interview show between here and the planet Mars, ripping her new nemesis, Richard Clarke; but folks like Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey don’t have the power to file charges when a guest perjures themselves, so a bit of hypocrisy seemed to raise it’s gigantic ugly head like those two little black curly horns that jut out from the sides of her doo (I believe it’s hair?).
Then–after the majority of the American public awoke from their standard, self-induced somnambulant slumber and asked “WHAT DOES THE PRESIDENT HAVE TO HIDE?”– the administration quickly changed its mind (probably the only time in history) and decided to defuse the potential electorate time-bomb, allowing Rice to audition for “American Idol from Hell” before a special Committee made up of sedated Republican Paula Abduls and pissed-off Democratic Simons.
Boy, what a SHOW! All we’re missing is Janet Jackson, that little monkey-faced boy-band singer, and a costume malfunction!
Well, it’s over for now. Condoleeza Rice finally appeared before America and, for the first time in three long years, an official of the Bush administration HAD TO TELL THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH! (mark your calendars, folks!)
As of mid-morning, Rice had spoken more words and been seen for a longer period of time by the American people than President Bush and Vice President Cheney COMBINED over a THREE YEAR PERIOD. (Guinness Book officials are currently searching their files to see if our National Security Advisor set a new record.)
It wasn’t a home run and it wasn’t a strike out; it was a draw, the kind we’re becoming used to in this incredibly divided nation that is ruled by a “uniter, not a divider”.
For true believers on both sides, (that’s all there are anymore), Rice’s testimony will surely prove whatever anybody wants it “to prove”: vague ambiguities will be seen as concrete pronouncements; concrete pronouncements will be interpreted as loose analogies.
That’s the way it is with true believers.
Republicans, Neo-Cons, Bush supporters, and reactionaries saw her as a combination of Madonna (the first divine version) and Margaret Thatcher on a bulimic binge.
Democrats, progressives, and liberals saw her as a combination of Medusa and Martha Stewart. (And what is it with Rice, Cheney, and Bush where they’re all able to smile when saying something incredibly serious, tragic, or hateful? I’ve never seen anything like it! It reminds me of the public speaking habits of Hannibal Lechter.)
As I watched the proceedings, it seemed to me that Rice’s main tactic was to try to fill each Commissioner’s TEN MINUTE time limit with meaningless, explanatory blather. After a while, it got to the point of absurdity, but when none of the commissioners seemed to notice or care, I thought it was perhaps just my impatience with the ass-kissing softballs thrown her way.
Finally, after interrupting and being interrupted, Kerry exploded:
KERREY: Let me move to another area.
RICE: May I finish answering your question, though, because this is an important…
KERREY: I know it’s important. Everything that’s going on here is important. But I get 10 minutes.
RICE: But since we have a point of disagreement, I’d like to have a chance to address it.
KERREY: Well, no, no, actually, we have many points of disagreement, Dr. Clarke, but we’ll have a chance to do in closed session. Please don’t filibuster me. It’s not fair. It is not fair. I have been polite. I have been courteous. It is not fair to me. (APPLAUSE) I understand that we have a disagreement.”
Yay!” I yelled! “Applause! Applause! It’s NOT JUST ME! She’s FILIBUSTERING! She’s trying to kill their ten minutes! Bee-atch!”
The Bottom Line: RICE SPENT 2 1/2 HOURS AND DIDN’T SAY SHIT. (Which– according to the Bush Administration, the most secretive in American history–can probably be seen as yet another major victory.)
The only dramatic, exciting moments came when partisan ‘audience’ members applauded when a Commissioner or Rice scored a point.
So — like everything else in American life — the investigation into 9/11 has turned into THEATRE. Pundits will score it like a gymnastics event: 9.9 for that question! 9.8 for that answer! Whoops, she fell off the beam of credibility! Uh-oh, he faltered with his partisan landing! 3000 dead angels watch from on high in disgust.
There weren’t a lot of surprises for either side; Rice did not negate or contradict the basics of Richard Clarke’s testimony. Words and concepts like “PRIORITY” are ambiguous and easily parsed and redefined to give advantage to whomever has the last word.
According to Clarke, Bush didn’t have Al Queda terrorism as a priority.
According to Rice, Yes, he did have terrorism as a priority, it’s just that it took EIGHT MONTHS to do much about it.
The one shocker came when Rice — having spent the last hour or so insisting that the administration didn’t have a CLUE about an attack on the US or an imminent threat from Al Queda — was asked about the title of the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) from August 6, 2001:
BEN-VENISTE: Isn’t it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB?
RICE: I believe the title was, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”
One could almost hear the air go out of the room when she answered.
Questions still remain, though, the 900 lb. gorilla that no one in the room seems to want to acknowledge:
* What WAS and IS the administration’s relationship to certain Saudi backers of the terrorists?
* Why was the Bin Laden family flown out of the U.S a few days after 9/11?
* Why hasn’t the Administration taken at least some responsibility for the massive failures that lead up to 9/11? And why hasn’t someone been fired for those failures?
A FEW GLARING PROBLEMS (from Center for American Progress report):
RICE: “I do not remember any reports to us, a kind of strategic warning, that planes might be used as weapons.” [responding to Kean]
FACT: Rice was the top National Security official with President Bush at the July 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa, where “U.S. officials were warned that Islamic terrorists might attempt to crash an airliner” into the summit, prompting officials to “close the airspace over Genoa and station antiaircraft guns at the city’s airport.”
RICE: “…We did not have…threat information that was in any way specific enough to suggest something was coming in the United States.”
FACT: Pg. 204, Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11: “In May 2001, the intelligence community obtained a report that Bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States” to “carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives.”
RICE: “The Vice President was, a little later in, I think, in May, tasked by the President to put together a group to look at all of the recommendations that had been made about domestic preparedness and all of the questions associated with that.”
FACT: The Vice President’s task force never once convened a meeting. In the same time period, the Vice President convened at least 10 meetings of his energy task force, and six meetings with Enron executives.