April 8, 2004

Rice's 9/11 Testimony

I just finished listening to Dr. Condi Rice's testimony to the 9/11 Commission -- as much as I could catch at my office -- and I'm equal parts disappointed and ticked off.

First, I can't tell you how irritating it is to have a live audience at these hearings, and even over the radio you could tell which commissioner was playing to them -- Richard Ben-Veniste. This shouldn't be the forum for one-liners and zingers, but certain members of this commission have decided that it's suddenly appropriate to deliver them, along with long speeches, to witnesses. Further, the questioning seemed to go far afield when former Senator Bob Kerrey started his "questioning" by blasting the military strategy being used currently in Iraq. What?? When did the 9/11 Commission suddenly become the Joint Armed Services Committee? It was a political cheap shot, in a morning full of them, all designed (despite Kerrey's demurral) to pander to the microphones and the live audience in attendance.

Dr. Rice's performance, furthermore, was a mild disappointment. She seemed flustered on several occasions, especially when the commissioners talked over her answers, and was too repetitive. She missed several opportunities to correct the record (see Rocket Man's excellent live blog for more detail), although she did catch a number of others. It may just be a case of unrealistic expectations; I expected more confidence and power from her than perhaps she's capable of delivering under these circumstances.

I'll post more later, but my overall take on this morning is that of profound disappointment with the entire 9/11 Commission process.

UPDATE: Eric in Waco thinks I may have been too harsh on Condi, and perhaps he's right; one disadvantage of experiencing it via radio rather than television, I suppose. Rocket Man thinks she did pretty well also, but not as well as he'd hoped, either. I'll say this: I never got the impression that she was hiding anything or being insincere, and I also never got the impression that she was blame-shifting to previous administrations or personnel. She took the correct historical approach, which is that our inadequate response to Islamofascist terror goes back many years, over administrations from both parties.

As far as the Commission itself, they didn't impress me one bit. Kerrey couldn't even get Rice's name straight. I understand mixing up the name once while discussing someone else's testimony, but he referred to her at least a half-dozen times as "Dr. Clarke." Review of intelligence data is all about detail, and here we have someone who can't even keep a witness's name straight when they're sitting in front of him -- and it's not like Condoleezza Rice is obscure or unknown. His complaint that she was trying to filibuster him, in my mind, was a classic case of projection, as he kept barking out long-winded questions and cutting off her answers with pithy little one-liners. Ben-Veniste did much the same thing.

All in all, it underscored this commission's true mandate, as revealed by the questioning of Commissioner Roemer:

Doesn't that beg that there should have been more accountability? That there should have been a resignation or two? That there should have been you or the president saying to the rest of the administration, somehow, somewhere, that this was not done well enough?

Will someone please explain to me what that question has to do with understanding the reasons behind the intelligence and policy failures that led to 9/11? It's only slightly less relevant than Kerrey's monologue on military strategy for the Iraq occupation. If resignations were necessary, it would be up to the President to ask for them.

This commission intends on getting someone's butt in their briefcase before the end, and that's the only reason why this grandstanding has been put on for public display. Had this commission wanted to take their job seriously, they would have eschewed public testimony and worked behind the scenes to review the data necessary. The testimony could easily have been released in transcript form at the end. Instead, they allowed it to dissolve into political high theater, and now have poisoned the process so much that we will inevitably wind up with two radically different reports, one majority and one minority, that will seek to cast as much blame on the other side, instead of reaching solutions for the issues that caused the failures to occur.

As I posted before, it's very disappointing.


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» Dr. Rice's Testimony Wrapup from I love Jet Noise
A few links for those (like me) who had to work and missed Dr. Rice's testimony: Full hearing transcript from FoxNews Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters was disappointed with Dr. Rice's performance, but noted he was listening on the [Read More]

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