Thursday, April 8, 2004

Dr. Rice’s Realities

The Faithful Correspondent sent on this point-by-point dissection from of Dr. Condoleezza Rice’s testimony today before the 9/11 commission. This is an excellent piece of research, taking on many of Dr. Rice’s assertions, either in the past or today, and comparing them to previous testimony from her or other members of the Bush administration and showing them to be either false, misleading, or just plain wrong. One small example:

CLAIM: “One of the problems was there was really nothing that look like was going to happen inside the United States…Almost all of the reports focused on al-Qaeda activities outside the United States, especially in the Middle East and North Africa…We did not have…threat information that was in any way specific enough to suggest something was coming in the United States.” [responding to Gorelick]

FACT: Page 204 of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 noted that “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.” The report “was included in an intelligence report for senior government officials in August [2001].” In the same month, the Pentagon “acquired and shared with other elements of the Intelligence Community information suggesting that seven persons associated with Bin Laden had departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.” [Sources: Joint Congressional Report, 12/02]

We had the hearings on in the office but we had so many other things going on with people trying to get things done (tomorrow’s some kind of holiday…) that we didn’t get to pay as much attention to it as we would have liked. The wrap-up on NPR was pretty concise. The New York Times suggests that “partisanship seeped through” in the questions of Richard Ben-Veniste and former Senator Bob Kerrey. Well, I suppose if you’re trying to get straight answers from someone who had to be dragged in to testify, things are bound to get snippy, especially compared to the easy ptiches Dr. Rice got from some of the Republicans.

What was most interesting was that while there were no glaring contradictions between what Richard Clarke said two weeks ago and what Dr. Rice said today, both of them came away from there with two widely differing perceptions of just about every event before and after 9/11. The facts may prove one thing, but perception is everything, especially when you have an agenda such as get the most political mileage you can out of it. Clearly that was weighing on Dr. Rice more than Mr. Clarke. And that, unfortunately, will make the difference in the way we all perceive it and where we go from here.

Update: Howard Fineman of Newsweek comes down surprisingly hard on Dr. Rice and her boss:

Rice, in the end, is just a cog in a machine. The real political question is: how did her testimony enrich in the narrative of what the president did—or didn’t—know and do about terrorism before September 11? In an interview with Bob Woodward, Bush admitted two years ago that he didn’t have a sense of “urgency” about Al Qaeda. He said he wasn’t “on point”—wasn’t locked on a target in hunting-dog fashion.


Already on the defensive for his leadership in the post-9/11 world—the war in Iraq grows less popular by the day—Bush now finds himself with questions to answer about his pre-9/11 leadership. He says he’s running for re-election as a “war president.” But by Rice’s own standards, the war was well underway by the time he took office. He was a “war president” the moment he took the oath. But did he act like one? The election may hinge on the answer.

Gee, if Fineman is turning the torch on them, who’s next?