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July 22, 2004
Lehman: 9/11 Commission "Mugged" By Viacom, Richard Clarke

Now that their work has been completed, 9/11 Commissioners will hit the road to promote the publication of their report, although none of them will profit from its release. One of the first revelations from the freedom of commissioners to speak out comes from former Navy Secretary John Lehman, and he wasted no time singling out the culprits who politicized the Commission's work -- Richard Clarke and Viacom, parent of CBS and publisher of Clarke's book:

It is a day of 9/11 Commission unanimity, but one commissioner, looking back at its public work, is remembering the partisan past. "We were mugged by Viacom," Republican commissioner John Lehman says, referring to the owner of the publisher of Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, and the owner of CBS, which broadcast a long, loving segment devoted to Clarke just prior to the release of his book.

"I think we were mugged by Viacom," Lehman told NRO in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon. "Because they changed the release date of the book and geared up 60 Minutes to launch his book to time them with his testimony and they edited his book to take out all of the criticisms of Clinton from his [original private] testimony. Because they wanted to make it a jihad against Bush."

Who, besides Clarke and Viacom, wanted a jihad against George Bush?

Lehman says that Clarke's original testimony included "a searing indictment of some Clinton officials and Clinton policies." That was the Clarke, evenhanded in his criticisms of both the Bush and Clinton administrations, who Lehman and other Republican commissioners expected to show up at the public hearings. It was a surprise "that he would come out against Bush that way." Republicans were taken aback: "It caught us flat-footed, but not the Democrats."

Clarke's performance poisoned the public hearings, leading to weeks of a partisan slugfest. Lehman says Republican commissioners felt they had to fight back, adding to the partisan atmosphere. "What triggered it was Dick Clarke," says Lehman. "We couldn't sit back and let him get away with what he wanted to get away with." He adds, "We were hijacked by a combination of Viacom and the Kerry campaign in the handling of Clarke's testimony."

Despite the politicization, Lehman says he's proud of the eventual product, calling it fair and its recommendations far-reaching. However, the politicization that Lehman bemoans already has drowned out much of what the commission wants to communicate, and its decision to hold public hearings has to be held partly responsible. During that phase, we saw several commissioners grandstanding for the cameras, turning what should have been a sober and calm review of all available data and testimony into the governmental equivalent of the OJ Trial. The hostility displayed towards witnesses such as Condoleezza Rice guaranteed that no useful information would receive a fair hearing, even if anything useful could have been added in open session that they hadn't already received in the hours of in camera proceedings that had already occurred.

Clarke and Viacom, and the Kerry campaign, all took advantage of this serious and fundamental mistake made by the commission. As Lehman says, Viacom moved up the publication date of Against All Enemies, but until now we had no idea that Clarke changed his testimony between the private session and the public session. Unfortunately, that bell cannot be unrung. Declassifying portions of Clarke's testimony might be very helpful, but that would lead to tit-for-tat demands from all sides. At least Lehman made an effort to clear the record.

As I said earlier, the executive summary is surprisingly unemotional and even clinical, as opposed to the overheated rhetoric and grandstanding that we experienced during the public testimony. Perhaps that may be enough to rescue the Commission from the self-inflicted wounds to its credibility. However, Clarke and Viacom should answer for their conduct during the spring, taking advantage of the process and hijacking the process for their own material gain while deliberately perverting the work of the commission.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 22, 2004 7:10 PM

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» CBS Slants Clarke's Testimony from
According to Republican 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman, Viacom went out of it's way to bump up the book release and his 60 Minutes interview to correspond with his testimony. That is of no surprise as any businessman knows that's just good business. W... [Read More]

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» 9-11 Executive Summary from :: Political Musings ::
I just finished reading the Executive Summary of the 9-11 Commission Report and have to admit that there are some interesting ideas and proposals put forth. But for the most part, I don't believe it was worth the effort. The Commission tarnished i... [Read More]

Tracked on July 22, 2004 9:12 PM

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